Take the reins and hold on

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Among them Martin Taylor, the former Courtaulds executive and one-time journalist, saw his protracted honeymoon at Barclays end in tears in 1998. George Feiger, previously a McKinsey consultant, did not live up to expectations as head of corporate finance after Swiss Bank Corporation bought Warburg. At retailer Marks & Spencer, Luc Vandevelde, brought in from Belgian retail group Promodes last year, has so far failed to deliver better sales at the British institution.

To start with, however, coming straight in at the top has its advantages. The absence of baggage enables the incomer to slice through the existing political jungle. Sally-Anne Hart, a consultant at Towers Perrin, says: 'It creates an element of surprise that can be very powerful.'

In his early days at Barclays, Taylor won plaudits for blowing a 'refreshing' breeze through the bank's megalithic bureaucracy.

Furse promises to be similarly bracing at the LSE. Her reputed toughness will stand her in good stead.

Toughness is a positive attribute for outsiders looking to make their mark, says Murray Steele at the Cranfield School of Management. A new boss from the outside is an unknown entity. Existing informal hierarchies are disassembled and this can lead to a sense of panic that toughness can dispel.

But toughness is a double-edged sword, warns Stephen Schneider, managing director at CPS, a coaching firm. 'There is a danger of bruising people without realising that you are doing so. Very bright people tend to place their intellect before their emotions. It's very easy to be insensitive to the impact that one is having on the people in an organisation. You need to be very in touch with emotional as well as business needs,' he says.

Failure to pull the right emotional levers will lead to a sharpening of knives. Coach Lee Bryce at the Change Partnership advises: 'Too great a focus on the problems of the past can create enemies.'

Success comes from a combination of toughness and teambuilding. 'New leaders need to quickly build a network, both internally and with customers. They need to identify where the energy for change and movement lies, and go there without being dragged down by internal politics,' advises Hart.

Robin Linneker, a coach at the Change Partnership, says: 'Work with others. This shows that you accept that you cannot know all there is to know about the firm.'

During those all important honeymoon months, successful entrants listen to the needs of their colleagues. Patrick O'Sullivan, who is credited with coming in and improving the fortunes of Zurich Financial Services General Insurance, employs the 'work-out' technique pioneered by GE Capital to ensure that problems are aired and changes made. Ideas from the floor are voiced during the 'work-out', and managers are obliged to agree or disagree to their implementation there and then.

For Furse, the most inspiring role model could well be Marie-Louise Rossi at the International Underwriters Association (IUA). When she entered the IUA's predecessor in 1993, Rossi overcame objections and opened the association to European members.

'It required a lot of consensus building. You need to know when you can, and when you can't, ruffle feathers.

'You need to know how to approach objections from a different standpoint in order to build consensus. And you have to be able to persuade people to come with you and to have the patience to wait while they change their mind,' she says.

Success brought Rossi the top position at the IAU when the two existing insurance associations combined in 2000.

If Furse is able to ride out the challenges during her own honeymoon, she too may end up astride a more powerful charge than the bucking bronco she faces in the coming months.

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