Making your mark on a temporary role


Stepping into a temporary leadership role might be the opportunity you’ve been waiting for or… it could be a daunting task you’re nervous about taking on. It can be tricky to find the balance in temporary leadership between making sure everything ticks along nicely and leaving your own mark on the position.

Understand the context you’re in

Not all interim positions are made equal. There are countless reasons why a position may have been left open but when you step into that role, you can understand your position through two different lenses: 

  • Holding the fort: You’ve been brought in to fill a position while management looks for someone else to hire (not you) or while they wait for someone to return (e.g. a maternity cover).

  • Yours … to lose: You are taking on the job on probation with the potential to be the person they choose to fill the position permanently. 

There are other factors that can come into play, too. It’s not uncommon for an organisation to fill a leadership position with a change agent. Often change is messy and hard to accept for other members of the organisation, so this person is brought in with the understanding that they will only be around until the change is implemented, bear the brunt of the animosity and then go on their way, leaving the rest of the leadership team to carry on relatively unscathed. 

Stepping into a temporary role can also come with fall out from the previous person to have held the position. Perhaps there wasn’t a thorough handover when they left or there’s frustration from a resignation. 

It could be that none of this applies to the position you’re filling but it’s important to understand the context around what you’re signing up for. When you understand the emotions around your position you can make better decisions along the way, even if you’re only in the position for a couple of months. 

Interim leaders have perks

Temporary leaders can feel overwhelmed when they step into the position but they also have their own set of benefits. 

  • Most organisations are grateful to have someone filling the position. With someone helping things run, they are free to take a little more time to find someone who’s perfect for the role rather than rushing things. 
  • Temporary leaders bring fresh eyes. You know those problems that seem unsolvable? As an interim leader, you can look at them from new perspectives to help the team move forward. 
  • Temporary leaders can also help management as they look for someone else. You have the benefit of understanding the role and looking at it with an outsider’s perspective, all at once. You understand what’s needed and what’s not, so that management can make the right choice in their hiring. 

How should temporary leaders approach their position? 

Your #1 priority should always be to keep things moving along. If you let things stall, it doesn’t reflect well on your own leadership, possibly taking you out of the running for filling the role permanently. It also isn’t fair for whoever comes after you — don’t throw caution to the wind just because you’re not going to be there in 3 months time. 

From there, you can work on improving things. Particularly if the role is yours to lose, you should be trying to improve processes, relationships and outputs. 

Improving things within your team doesn’t mean that you should tip it all on its head. Unless you’re hired specifically as a change agent, you shouldn’t take big risks that might not pay off. You want to prove your worth — even if you’re not being considered to fill the role permanently, you might be considered for a role elsewhere in the organisation. Don’t throw away the opportunity just because you want to leave your mark. 

If you’re in a temporary leadership position and want to know how you can succeed in the role, People Make the Difference can help. To find out more, visit or call us on 0412 333 415. Try our online leadership training videos – $99 for complete access. Great value if you’re committed to growing your leadership potential.