Succession: Transitioning Leadership

Succession, simply the transition of leadership or power, is very difficult for most companies or organizations. Whether a Fortune 50 like GE, Wal-Mart, or Apple; a non-profit like the Red Cross, Focus on the Family, or World Vision; a small startup or family held business; in any case this is a tough one to get it right.  Large companies put millions of dollars into making sure succession is smooth and seemless. Look at Apple- succession from Steve Jobs to whoever the next CEO will be could literally cost the company billions of dollars in market capitalization, and even more in brand equity. It is a huge issue for the long term health of the company.

Family held businesses or "founder-driven" organizations are really at risk of bad succession plans. Most founders of organizations can't let go, and drive everyone crazy around them. Especially in companies that are highly missional- founders are great at starting and building, but usually terrible at letting go and allowing the organization to grow without them. 

Here in America, we do a really good job of succession when it comes to our President. It is a civil and democratic process. Not the case in other parts of the world, especially in third world and developing countries. Leaders hold onto power and do everything they can to stay in the seat of President or Prime Minister way long after they should be there. Usually because the power of their position corrupts their realities at the deepest levels. I believe this is one of the major issues for these countries- bad succession leads to internal strife, violence and disruptions in growth. These leaders not only hold onto to their power, but fail to develop any other leaders around them to take over. Paul Kigame, the President of Rwanda, however, is an exception to this. Even though Rwanda is still a developing country, President Kigame has been influenced by western business and governmental leaders, and is building a strong infrastructure around him of young leaders who will be able to step in. 

What about you? Are you currently leading? Whether a team, a company, a non-profit, or a Fortune 50, you should be thinking about succession. How are you replacing yourself? If you are not thinking about this, you are neglecting a core part of your responsibility.