In my capacity as an Executive Coach, a common challenge that I have heard from international companies in Vietnam is how to successfully localize, ‘promote from within’, and onboard newly promoted executives into the leadership team. Having supported these new executives over the years, I have seen three common themes emerge around the challenges they face with the leadership transition.


All individuals that have been identified to be leadership team members have a fairly ‘cookie-cutter’ recipe for success: be technically excellent at what they do, achieve exceptional performance leading a business unit, and be recognized by the organization as having the qualities and potential for executive leadership.

However, a common misconception is that this winning recipe will also equate to success in the leadership team. Partway into the new role, they default to a focus on their own performance and the success of their business unit to the detriment of the leadership team. What they often fail to appreciate is they are now a member of a new team, and their contribution, perceived value-add and collective success of the leadership team are now of equal importance.

When I work with an executive, I call this “Adopting a Two-Team Mindset”. To be effective, the new executive member must accept they are a member of two equally important teams that are both competing for their time and effort. The imperative is the executive has a shift in mindset, finds the correct time/effort balance, and is conscious of when they slip back into old behavior.


Another theme that I have observed from coaching fresh executives is a reluctance to be involved in organizational politics. They typically describe it as bad practice, or against their values and beliefs, or that it feels inauthentic and manipulative. As such, they adopt an avoidance approach.

Unfortunately, every company has internal politics. As a CEO eloquently put it to me: “It’s just a form of soft influence or an alternative way of getting things done. It is not necessarily a negative, but it’s a necessary part of doing business.”

To be effective, an executive must accept that ‘playing politics’ is a necessary part of being a leadership team member. Therefore, it’s important the executive practices “good” politics which enables them to further their individual and team’s interests appropriately. It’s not always a negative and it is possible to further a cause without compromising values and beliefs.


The third and most frequent theme is how organizations onboard locally promoted executives into the leadership team. Typically, it takes the form of ‘part membership’ through attending (some) team meetings, a slightly larger scope of responsibility, or being asked to lead an organization-wide project. It is done under the notion that the executive needs to prove themselves or earn their place.

Often I observe that the executive is not given full access to all information to be able to contribute equally or the decision-making authority to get things done. They are expected to perform at the same level as their peers, yet without the tools and resources to be successful. As a result, they are often on a path to failure.

In this case, I work with executives to have meaningful discussions with their boss on defining their roles, responsibilities and reporting lines, barriers resulting from ‘part membership’ with the aim of gaining clarity around their pathway to full leadership team membership. Whilst the above three themes are not an exhaustive list of the challenges facing new leadership team members, they are common barriers to success that are easily overcome.

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Tim Burrill
Membership Manager & Executive Assistant
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