I’m working my way through a book, The Top 10 Mistakes Leaders Make, by Hans Finzel, and I’m really enjoying the challenge. So for the next ten Saturdays I want to work through these ten mistakes, knowing that they apply to CEOs, ministry leaders, parents, teachers, coaches, pastors and just about anyone in any kind of leadership role. I promise to keep my summaries short(ish), and I would love to interact with your thoughts as we go along. These mistakes are listed in order of how they occur in the book, not necessarily how I would arrange them. Overboard Leadership requires an honest self-evaluation of each of these shortcomings (sins?) of leaders. Looking for missed posts, click here: Mistake #1, Mistake #2, Mistake #3, Mistake #4, Mistake #5, Mistake #6, Mistake #7, Mistake #8).
Mistake #9: Success without successor
“Organizations live and die on their flow and acceptance of new leadership talent,” writes Hans, and he’s absolutely right. All great leaders move forward knowing that one day, someone else will be taking the reigns. So while a strong leader is fully engaged in the present direction of his organization, he is also keeping an eye on who it is that might replace him one day. As a parent, I recognize that my children will be leading their own families soon, and as a pastor, that my students will be leaders in the church before long.
The challenge many organizations face in appointing a new leader is that there is going to be a generational change from the current leader to the next. Here are some reasons Finzel gives us that organizations fail at making the transfer of leadership happen:
- The organization doesn’t like the new person
- The new person, doesn’t like the organization
- The new person’s family can’t adjust to the new environment (cultural, location etc..)
- Corporate culture conflict: values don’t match up
- The new leader fails in his assigned duties. He doesn’t have the ability, capacity, experience or knowledge needed to do the job
- The old guard sabotages the efforts of the new leader
- The old leader sabotages the efforts of the new leader
- The old leader fails to leave, or often reappears
- The new leader fails to be persistent in implementing change
- The new leader is recruited away by a better offer or challenge
I know a church that was built up quickly, by the founding pastor, and under his leadership grew to be one of the largest and most influential in its area. Eventually, the founding pastor announced his succession plan, giving the church a two year window to prepare. A new pastor was found, was groomed for the job and told that he would be the next leader of the church.
At the two year point, the founding pastor decided the new guy “wasn’t ready yet” and he changed his plans and continued to serve as the lead pastor for another 5 years! Grudgingly, he finally left, but to this day, he lives in the area and he continues to have his influence through the leaders that he appointed, that are still heavily involved in the organization. Not a single, major church decision, is ever made without someone consulting the original pastor for his opinion about the direction the church is going. That’s a perfect example of having success without a successor.
The above list shows us why organizations fail to appoint new leaders, but more specifically, why do leaders fail to make the change?
- Lack of (or the need for) intrinsic job security
- Insecurity about what to do next
- Fear of retirement
- Resistance to change (even though they were probably champions of change during their tenure)
- Inflated job-associated self-worth, or deflated self-esteem (they get their value from their job)
- Their whole life revolves around their role
- Lack of confidence
- Thinking no one else can do the job as well as they did
- Love for the job or their leadership role
- Potential loss of investment (retirement account, stock options etc...)
- Not wanting to lose the human investment
So how does a leader and organization create a culture of success with successors always in view? Here are a few thoughts Hans lays out:
- A focus on mentorship
- Upward: I look to leaders who have gone before me who can guide me as I manage others. People who will keep me accountable and help me shape my vision.
- Downward: I look to those who will be leaders in the future. This is a small group of people, and some my even be outside the organization.
- Internal: Peers within our organization can challenge us to hold accountable to our leadership goals, and provide prospective, if we’re receptive, to our blind spots.
- Outward: Peers outside our organization that are in the same stage of life as we are, where mentoring is two ways.
- A focus on the finish
- Mentor others, with a willingness to risk your own reputation in order to advance them.
- Model other leadership ideals to challenge others to move toward them.
- Direct others toward the resources needed for further development.
- Co-minister with others, giving them value, confidence, status and credibility
Succession should be as much a part of a leader’s success, as anything else a leader does. Jesus didn’t do all the work of ministry Himself, but set up a succession plan that would allow the ministry to explode after His departure. Moses appointed Joshua to take the people into the Promised Land, Paul appointed elders in Ephesus to carry on the work after his departure, and left a number of pastors behind in churches he started (Timothy, Titus etc...). Succession should be seen as a multiplication of ministry!
So go ahead and take the plunge, your leadership will be better on the water!