Attention FAE Customers:
Please be aware that NASBA credits are awarded based on whether the events are webcast or in-person, as well as on the number of CPE credits.
Please check the event registration page to see if NASBA credits are being awarded for the programs you select.

Want to save this page for later?

Most Popular Content

Strategies for Coping in a New Leadership Role When Previously Passed Over for It

S.J. Steinhardt
Published Date:
Mar 21, 2024

Workers taking on a more senior role may experience imposter syndrome, especially when the role is one for which they were originally rejected, but there are strategies for coping with this self-doubt, Alisa Cohn, an executive coach, wrote in the Harvard Business Review.

Cohn specializes in working with prominent startups and Fortune 500 companies—including Google, Microsoft, DraftKings, Venmo, and Etsy—and is the author of From Start-Up to Grown-Up. She offered five strategies that new leaders can use to become a better at their jobs when they get that second chance.

Cohn’s first strategy for people in this situation is to clarify the gaps, starting with a conversation with their boss and other key players to gain an understanding of why they didn’t get the job initially. She suggested saying, “I’m very eager to over-deliver in this job and realize I have some gaps. I’d love to know what you perceive as my gaps, what I can do to fill them, and how we’ll both know whether I’m successful in the first few months.”  

Her second strategy is to project confidence, particularly during these clarifying conversations. Centering oneself physically and taking a few deep breaths beforehand is a good way to start, she recommended. She advised having a plan for what to do if anything said makes the newly promoted person defensive or is taken personally. “A good strategy is to view the discussion more analytically,” she wrote. “Remember, that [the other] person didn’t get the job. But you did.”

Her third strategy for people in this situation is to use what they learn immediately. These discussions will provide information that they can implement during the onboarding process. If the information is critical of their abilities, they can use the feedback to correct the deficiencies, rather than let it erode their confidence further.

Her fourth strategy is for them to promote themselves with their new peers. People ascending to a more senior role need to build a strategic network, rather than bury themselves in work to prove their worth. Cohn advised setting up one-on-one meetings with the new peers as soon as possible to reintroduce themselves in the context of the new role. These conversations should be about vision and strategy.

Her fifth strategy is to establish a new dynamic with their direct reports. This can be achieved by such means as discussing the desired culture to be created with the team, and letting them know that their expertise is still valued.

“The bright side of managing your former peers is that you may have a close co-worker or two with whom you’ve built candid, trusted relationships,” she wrote. One can have deeper discussions with these colleagues, and can ask them to serve as advisors.

“Being passed over for a promotion can sting, but sometimes you get a second chance,” Cohn wrote in conclusion. “Use this opportunity to continue to grow as a leader and quiet the imposter syndrome voices in your head.”