The first thing to expect when there is a sudden, unexpected void in leadership is uncertainty and concern. There also might be a sudden gap in experience and knowledge. It is important to remember that sudden change can make even the most productive or cool-headed people act unlike their usual self. Stability in an organization is key and leadership provides that.
While this won’t help those who are currently experiencing a leadership void, planning ahead for the eventuality will, hopefully, help an organization experience very little transitional drama. Having a clear, public plan in place for succession in leadership roles is the easiest way to prepare for both expected and unexpected leadership transitions.
Current leaders should be grooming one or several people to take their place and make it plainly know who is in line for what positions and why. The succession plan should support the values and goals of the organization that are already in place. The people in line should also be supportive of these values and goals.
If one’s organization is in the unfortunate position of not having a plan in place when a leadership void occurs there are some things to be done. Quickly finding a respected, knowledgeable and senior member of the team to take charge will calm many people’s concerns, even if this role is temporary. Keep open lines of communication and avoiding feeding rumor mills is essential. All members, but especially senior members, of the team need to step up and lead by example.
As much as possible all members of the organization should do their part in keeping up the status quo as the team reorganizes itself. Most importantly everyone should remember as disastrous and chaotic as a sudden void in leadership may feel, it is not the end.