Interim leadership is an option that can boost organizational development and drive transformation. What is an interim leader? An experienced leader, often over-qualified for a leadership opportunity, committed to ‘gigs’ focused on transformation, not interested in a permanent position, and driven by results.
The concept of interim leadership has existed for nearly 30 years, but in some parts of the world (including the US) it is an under used resource. Why? Predominantly because many organizations and their leaders have a mindset that goes like this …. Leaders need to be part of the permanent fabric of the enterprise, and if we need support, we can always turn to one of the big consulting houses. Now, there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with that. But by ignoring the option of interim leaders to accelerate change and deliver critical projects, leaders are missing an opportunity to expand their options of organizational leadership. It’s a bit like the days when most car manufacturers were 100% committed to the internal combustion engine, only to be challenged by the entrepreneurial spirit of hybrid manufacturers and electric cars. Now it seems that the need to embrace alternative ways of powering cars is essential and not optional. I think interim leadership is heading in this direction as well.
An interim leader is someone who has invariably had a successful career in the corporate world, often rising to a senior position, possibly the ‘C Suite’. They have either made a choice to continue their future work engagements on a contract basis, or they have been forced to consider this option through redundancy or other changes that have impacted them. They bring gravitas and deep knowledge with them because of their expertise. But they are not just experts. They are often also great leaders. People who know how to inspire and engage others to focus on critical outcomes. They may not have an interest in the long-term cultural or strategic path of their client, but they do know how to commit 100% to an assignment. They often become an internal coach and mentor, contributing way more than just the immediate objectives of a project. And they invariably stir up an organization and those around them to reach forwards in deliberate and aspirational ways.
Interim leaders can often add significant value as part of a well thought out strategy of delivering organizational growth. They are catalysts, adventurers, optimists, and achievers. Alongside permanent leaders, and perhaps consulting resources, they can be the ‘secret sauce’ in a dynamic leadership mix.
When I started my interim leadership career over 16 years ago, I didn’t really know what this was going to entail. But looking back at my career of multiple clients, critical projects, and major achievements, I am more than ever a proponent of interim leaders as a vital resource for modern organizations. Interim leaders are often exposed to many more organizations and projects than permanently employed leaders, and they bring a depth of experience unmatched by many consulting houses. Taking advantage of these ‘gig leaders’ is something that organizations need to do to exploit their growth and transformation challenges.