“The gravest indictment of a leader is for the organization to collapse as soon as he leaves or dies… An effective leader knows the ultimate test of leadership is to create human energies and human vision.” – Drucker
You must have seen this happen – once a seemingly great leader leaves, the team collapses. Somehow this is such a frequent phenomenon, it is considered the most natural outcome. In fact, if teams function well in the absence of the leader, the credit always goes to the team, despite the impact the leader makes on it to continue working effectively. Planning and working towards a succession is a hard task. More often than not, there aren’t many people who show promise, or so we think.
Consider working exceptionally hard on something but failing to plan sustainability. That is exactly what happens when you fail to invest in the next generation of leaders. It is critical to make it a priority much before it’s time to leave.
Sometimes even though leaders are anxious about their successor, they don’t create an effective plan to help them plan better. No matter how sharp the young leader is, mentoring is essential to help the person succeed.
Therefore, if you are in a position where you must choose a successor, the obvious starting point must be listing the responsibilities this new person might play and the qualities required. This list should then serve as a guideline in shortlisting the right people.
Ideally someone from your team should be the right fit for your role. However, if it is not the case, begin networking with people and start investing in finding the right fit even while you have no plans of moving on. This is often ignored because it is mostly considered abnormal to find a successor before you are set to resign.
Once you have the person picked out, find another one if you have options available. That will prevent failure if your first choice steps back. It is not very important to inform your successor about the possibility of their promotion. You will be the best judge to decide what works for your role and company. It is, however, important to mentor and coach the person in order to prepare them for when the time comes.
Maintain a detailed job description for your role. It will help your successor have concrete guidelines as they cope with the change. No matter how able your successor is, it might take time for people to embrace the change.
Succession Planning is the most ignored need of the day. If you are a manager leading other managers, encourage them and support them as they coach the next generation of leaders. Your legacy depends on how successfully your team handles this responsibility.