Few managerial transitions are more difficult than making the move from leading a function to leading an entire enterprise for the first time. The scope and complexity of the job increase dramatically, in ways that can leave executives feeling overwhelmed and uncertain. It truly is different at the top. But how, exactly? Career transition expert Michael Watkins set out to explore that question in an extensive series of interviews with leadership mentors, HR professionals, and newly minted unit heads. What he found was that at this turning point, executives must navigate a tricky set of changes in their leadership focus and skills. Watkins calls these the seven seismic shifts. New enterprise leaders must move from being a specialist to a generalist; from analyzing data to integrating knowledge from multiple sources; and from implementing tactics to developing strategies. They also need to transform themselves from bricklayers into organizational architects; from problem solvers into agenda setters; and from warriors intent on beating the competition into diplomats who engage with a full range of stakeholders. Finally, leaders must move out from the wings and get used to living on center stage in the full spotlight. To make the transition, managers have to acquire new capabilities quickly. And though what got them to the top may no longer be enough, there are steps that they and their organizations can take to prepare them to succeed.
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