What’s the role of a transitional leader?

A transitional leader is a board- or executive-level individual brought in to tackle a corporate challenge with a defined purpose and direction. They are typically hired to lead a major transformation, such as a company restructuring, sale or turnaround, integration of an acquisition or the start-up of a new division.

The transformation will be measurable and will affect the company’s shape or its position. The role is one that calls for highly specialist, relatively rare board-level executives, arguably an alter ego for the chairman or chief executive, who are either recognised experts in their field, or who have multi-disciplinary expertise and multiple-industry experience. An early career in an investment banking or management consultancy advisory role is not unusual.

This is not the same as interim management. The ‘centre of gravity’ of this market is gap-filling, holiday/maternity cover, ‘holding the fort’, and completing project teams. Immediacy, more often than not, is the primary focus.

Typical interim candidates include long-term career interims; those ‘between jobs’ with an ambition to return to a permanent role; longer term ‘betweenies’, formerly known as independent consultants; and early senior retirees who no longer seek a permanent income, but wish to continue making a contribution.

Meanwhile, the transitional leader faces the complex, testing and often unenviable task of getting the difficult job done. But the market is there, the rewards for success are high and the benefits to the business are clear: gravitas, experience, focus and a measurable business result.

Richard Ball is founder and director of Ballantyne, a division of the international search firm, Highland Partners

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