The Leadership Assimilation Process and What it Means for
by Stew Bolno, MBA, EdM
The company has spent a
good amount of time and effort, and paid a hefty commission to an
executive recruiter to find the perfect candidate to fill an important
leadership position. The new person is accomplished, experienced, and
confident. However, within a few months, and maybe even weeks, there is
a visible degree of friction between the new boss and the people who he
or she is expected to lead. This is not an unusual occurrence. Most
seasoned employees have experienced witnessed a similar circumstance.
In graduate schools, students are taught that organizations are systems.
This means that any new input has an impact on the larger entity.
Divisions and departments of the organization are also systems. Since
they are smaller, a change at the top of the unit has a profound impact
on the culture, groups, and individuals who comprise it. Like any
system, there is a degree of inertia and homeostasis. The initial
response to any change is to fight or reject the new element. Often
groups demonstrate distrust, resistance, and conflict. It is always
possible for the new leader gain the loyalty of the team, but this often
takes months of effective interaction and high-level performance
The purpose of a Leadership Assimilation process is to make a conscious
effort to avoid the all-too-human elements that threaten the development
of a trusting team and limit the potential for executives to display
their talents. It is a simple learning model that is efficient,
engaging, and meaningful for any team with a new leader. When designed
and implemented properly Leadership Assimilation aligns expectations,
preferences, and items that might create obstacles to success among the
The Leadership Assimilation Process
The process is really quite simple. Think of it as an event in four
quarters, not unlike a football game. In the morning until the break,
the overview, purpose, and method is presented to the entire group.
After short introductions, the consultant works with the executive and
those who will be managed/supervised form in groups of six to eight
members. Each group selects a facilitator to keep the process on-track
and focused. At its best, each individual receives a workbook with
general questions listed at the top of each page. This enables guidance
Core questions for the team may include:
What does the team want
to know about the new leader?
What does the team need
from the leader in order to raise levels of effectiveness?
What does the new leader
need to know about the individual team members?
What are the new leaders
What issues require the
attention of the leader?
Within each of these
categories, there should be specific questions that will prompt a response
from the leader. Examples that might be listed within question 5 are:
5a. Identify issues that
are urgent and important.
5b. Identify issues that may not be urgent but are important.
5c. Identify issues that can be solved easily and at little expense of
time, money, and or effort.
The leaders questions are
similar in form to that of the team members. Questions about the leaders
background, expectations, strengths, priorities, and expectations can all be
During the 2nd quarter, which runs from the morning break until lunch, the
team reveals its concerns. The leader listens; just listens. Needs a little
more info here.
After lunch, the 3rd quarter, the leader has the opportunity to reveal his
or her worksheet items.
The 4th quarter is where collective action occurs. As a group, they develop
consensus on core items and make a commitment for creating high- level
performance team. People leave on a high note with an action plan and
in-depth knowledge about each other, that otherwise may have taken months to
learn. Clearly, they are at a higher level of awareness and intimacy than
they could have gotten without this process. Fittingly, the leader has had
an opportunity to express priorities and to show up as a reasonable person
with a primary intention of helping the team achieve its goals.
The Origin and Future of Leadership Assimilation
A final factoid that everyone should know about this is that the Leadership
Assimilation process originated in the US Army. Now, think about it, if
those with stripes, bars, and medals recognized that leadership is based on
something more than hierarchy and have benefited from this process dont you
think your company can as well?
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