With all the focus on the inauguration, we should be reminded that most leaders have predecessors. How they treat the man or woman who goes before them sets them up for success or failure. Here are four things to remember when you take over:
1. Be appreciative. Unless the leader before you acted immorally or in a totally self-serving manner, make sure to express appreciation for his or her contributions however large or small they may be.
2. Be gracious. Extend the benefit of the doubt to the previous leader’s intentions and actions.
3. Be merciful. No matter how much you might disagree with the person who went before, you will have times as a leader when you need mercy. Give what you desire.
4. Be careful. You are yet unproven. The customer service advice to “under-promise and over-deliver” is good advice for leaders as well. Your treatment of your predecessor will be a visible example of how you treat others and what value you place on things like tact and diplomacy. Above all, avoid the appearance of an arrogance that assumes you’ll easily surpass the leader you replaced.