Imagine a light of megawatt proportion being shone directly into your eyes. You are blinded for an instant and your first instinct is to put up your hands to protect yourself from its harsh glare. You know that this will look defensive so you adjust your stance to meet the glare, find the soft illumination that works for you and then confront it. Sometimes, you will even bask in it. This is the light of the first 100 days that prime ministers and presidents enjoy and endure to varying degrees.
It was actually newly elected President Franklin D. Roosevelt back in 1933 who coined the terminology of the First 100 Days, White House correspondent Ken Walsh informs us in the US news and World Report. The First 100 days continues to remain an instrument, albeit a blunt one at times, by which generations of leaders have been marked and measured, from Roosevelt to Obama, Churchill to Justin Trudeau, Mandela to Modi. These 100 days of microscopic public and expert scrutiny has since opened the door to presidents and prime ministers being tracked, labelled, and branded and in some cases, building an iconic legacy as onlookers write, tweet, post, analyse and capture images on their smart phones in what has become a rite of passage in any leadership position.
Similarly, C – suite leaders have shrewdly realised that the limelight remains not just the province of prime ministers and presidents, but extends to every sphere. Look at Steve Jobs who used his savvy and first 100 days as a marketing tool for Apple in a You Tube address. Peter High who writes in Forbes on the Chief Information Officer (CIO) goes so far as to say that the CIO’s ‘reputation is cemented in the first 100 days’.
In a digital age where your every move can be captured and shared in an instant be it an epoch-making manoeuvre or a face reddening faux pas, the first 100 days has become a strategic tool to leverage the vision, values and purpose of all executives. When used wisely it can garner a mass following (think Mandela), nurture a coterie of influential supporters and in some instances, be used by history to reflect how we can emulate the best leadership practice whether you are leading a country, a company or a charity.
When you reflect on your first 100 days in your executive role, what makes you smile? What makes you cringe? And what still makes your neck and shoulders throb with the phantom pain of stress from that period?
This is the first of a 3 part series on the First 100 Days of executives.
Sudhana Singh is an executive coach, trainer and educator based in London. Her niche is coaching executives in the first 100 days of their new roles.