How Organizations Can Fast-Track Transitioning Leaders

Topic(s): development, leadership, training
Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology
Article: Show and Tell: How Supervisors Facilitate Leader Development Among Transitioning Leaders
Authors: L. Dragoni, H. Park, J. Soltis, S. Forte-Trammell
Reviewed by: Andrew Morris

New job roles can be daunting prospects. There are contrasts with old responsibilities, new expectations, and all sorts of surprises that pop up along the way. Adjusting quickly to the demands of a new position is important for productivity. But how can organizations fast-track transitioning leaders to help them gain the knowledge and skills they need?

The authors of this study (Dragoni, Park, Soltis, & Forte-Trammell, 2014) suggest that supervisors can play a key role in leadership development. The study points towards the need for supervisors and mentors to not only tell transitioning employees how to lead effectively, but to show them how effective leadership looks in practice. This increases the chance of a smooth transition, and frees up individuals to focus on leading others.


“Telling” deals with effectively communicating the knowledge-based components of the job, which include areas of responsibility, reporting channels, etc. By giving transitioning leaders this necessary information up front, you can reduce the potential for future mistakes and free them to focus on other important aspects of the job. The study suggests that leaving them to figure these things out on their own, through trial and error, will impact their overall job efficiency in the initial stages, as well as the quality of their leadership over others.


The study also suggests that the “showing” aspect of helping to develop new leaders is critical in their success. Employees who have been lucky enough to work with a great leader may require less “show and tell.” When new leaders who have had this benefit in the past are paired with supervisors who don’t put in the proper time and effort in training, they bounce back better than those who have never worked with great leaders.

But do not be despondent if the person you are training has not had this benefit of working with a great leader before. The research shows that these employees often see the greatest gains from working with a “show and tell” supervisor.


In conclusion, training that provides both showing and telling gives transitioning leaders the greatest chance for success. Showing without telling leaves the new leader navigating the occasionally rough waters of organizational structures and processes alone. Telling without showing often leaves the new leader struggling to figure out appropriate behavioral responses to organizational situations.

For those involved in training and developing leaders for a new role, it is essential to spend time telling the details of the job and showing effective leadership in context. It is imperative for trainers to model the behavior they would like to see in others, as well as provide trainees with inside information that will help them navigate their new job roles. This will save everyone time, and allow them to focus their attention on the people they are leading.


Dragoni, L., Park, H., Soltis, J., & Forte-Trammell, S. (2014). Show and tell: How supervisors facilitate leader development among transitioning leaders. Journal of Applied Psychology, 99(1), 66-86.