Is The Move From Permanent To Interim Leadership Right For You?

There’s a reason interim professionals have been referred to as the ‘A-team of the business world’. They can be there in a flash, bring the right skills at the right time, and excel in navigating complex challenges with a level of expertise that comes from years of experience. Recently, high inflation combined with a less active hiring market has also made hiring interim talent an increasingly attractive option as companies seek to optimise costs and maintain workforce flexibility.

For senior leaders looking to reinvigorate their careers, sure up their skillset or discover a more flexible professional path, interim is an attractive choice. However, it also takes a particular blend of characteristics and skillsets that don’t come naturally to everyone. Unlike traditional leadership positions, interim assignments often involve parachuting into unfamiliar situations, demanding a quick understanding of an organisation and the identification of immediate priorities.

In this article, we’ll explore four key requirements that will help determine whether interim is the right move in your leadership career.

Shift your mindset

If you’re spent your career so far working in permanent roles, you’ll need to quickly adjust to a different way of thinking.

Interim professionals are brought on board because they have a job to do, often as a result of business disruption or transformation. This means you might be dealing with more challenging circumstances than you’re probably used to, and that you’ll be expected to start making an impact quickly. You might have targets to meet in a relatively short amount of time, or difficult decisions to make regarding finances or people management. In fact, around 90% of interim assignments involve change management in some form.

As an interim leader, you’ll be expected to be an objective voice totally removed from company politics or internal relationships, and there purely to take action in the best interests of the organisation.

None of these things are necessarily negative. In fact, an interim role can be the ideal opportunity to develop and showcase your skills as an adaptable and resilient leader. However, they do require a shift in mindset; your role is to lead through uncertainty, make swift yet strategic decisions, and drive results in the face of challenges.

Get comfortable with uncertainty

If you’re considering making the move to interim, you likely already know that it comes with far fewer guarantees than a permanent position. For the reasons we’ve touched on above, assignments often arise at short notice, and you can never truly know how long each one will last. While you might initially be brought on for three or six months, that timeframe could well be extended if the organisation’s needs evolve. Additionally, you might be offered assignments in a different area of the country or asked to work irregular hours.

While all of this might sound daunting, if you thrive on freedom, variety and impact, it can also be incredibly exciting. You’ll constantly be expanding your skillsets and knowledge, and delivering solutions without the constraints of a traditional 9-5 routine. It’s a chance to shape your own narrative, define your impact, and immerse yourself fully in each project.

Know your ‘why’

Interim assignments provide plenty of benefits: you’re able to gain a breadth of experience across a range of sectors, enjoy the opportunity for time off between contracts, be selective in the opportunities you take on, and often receive higher pay in comparison to permanent positions. In short, it can be a flexible and lucrative career move.

On the flip side, you’ll often have to leave a business before seeing the full benefits of the work you’ve done, will have to accept not feeling part of the ‘fabric’ of the business, and it can be more difficult to form and maintain long-term relationships.

All of these factors mean you’ll need to be quite clear on your own internal motivations to take on a role as an interim leader in order to succeed. Perhaps you’re reaching retirement age and want the freedom and autonomy of contract assignments, or you’re someone who thrives on variety and the challenge of tackling diverse projects. Whatever your circumstances, your ‘why’ is the foundation on which your success as an interim leader is built.

Be ready to get stuck in

If you’re considering making the move from permanent to interim leader, it’s important to understand what will be expected of you in your role. One common misconception some new interim professionals have is that their role will be akin to consulting than hands-on leadership. While there’s certainly an overlap in the required skillset between the two roles – strategic capability and objective thinking – the key difference is that interim leaders don’t just make recommendations, they get directly involved in making things happen. You won’t be observing from the sidelines; instead, you’ll be working closely with the team, dealing with immediate challenges, and making important decisions on the spot. Whether it’s managing changes in the organisation, solving problems as they arise, or making quick decisions, you’ll be right there in the middle of it.

Sometimes, this might involve hiring new permanent employees, implement new systems and processes, or streamline existing ones to improve efficiency. You’ll also be much closer both physically and emotionally to the decisions you’ll need to make; you’ll be expected not only to handle your brief with logistical foresight, but have the emotional intelligence to deal with organisational change sensitively.

Ultimately, making the move from permanent to interim senior leadership isn’t right for everyone, and is a choice that requires careful consideration and forethought. For those who do decide to take the plunge however, the rewards can be immense; each assignment brings with it variety, a new network, and a chance to shape your own narrative as a professional while leading with impact.

Ready to launch your interim career?

At GRG Executive Search, we’re highly experienced in connecting top-tier talent with organisations seeking dynamic interim leaders. To find out more about our interim practice, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our Head of Interim Practice Sarah Bradley:

Get in touch

We'd love to hear from you.

0121 631 1751

Contact Form

Need help with your search?

Make an Enquiry

Looking for opportunities?

Live Roles