Leading Succession Well
Everywhere I turn today someone is talking about change. Perhaps my Reticular Activating System was just turned on by the first thing I read this morning, but none the less, in just a few hours I have seen three other articles about leading change, particularly leading succession change.
How do we change leaders without blowing up organizations?
1. Lead with Clarity
People follow clarity. They say they want to follow character, but they actually follow clarity.
Give people a clear vision of the future. Let them know what is coming next.
Help people understand the risks of staying the same. Teach them the changes that are necessary for continued health.
Offer a viable plan. Emotion alone won’t get people to act. Emotions shift the mindset, but reasonable plans are what they follow. Each step in the process needs to be clear and easy to follow. Even skeptics will follow a clear plan, usually without realizing it, if it is clear and viable.
2. Lead with Consistency
Nothing destroys organizations more than inconsistent behavior from the leadership.
When a successor takes the reigns there will be change. Change to processes, change to reporting, change of attitude. For good or bad these will shift at the very least, because no two leaders are alike.
However, if vision and values remain clear, people can follow. When the core purpose and personality of an organization are not changed, then leaders can change and make change that brings people along.
Some might choose to leave, but in truth most will stay and find life in the new leader.
3. Surrender Authority and Influence
One of the hardest and best things a leaving leader can do is to hand over authority and influence before he leaves.
In the story I read this morning, Moses, the leader of the nation of Israel stands at the end of his journey and theirs from Egypt to the Promised Land. At this point, an estimated 2.5-3 million people made the nation. Before Moses dies, he cares enough about these people to ask God to grant them a new leader, and God instructs Moses to raise up Joshua.
To be clear, only Joshua or Caleb would have been right for this job. Both had followed the core values of the organization for the entire journey, both had sacrificed and lead the others through the trials and fears. Both had been in leadership in one form or the other for 40 years.
Joshua is chosen.
However, Caleb continues to follow the values of the organization by standing beside his friend instead of fighting the decision. Joshua seems to take the responsibility humbly.
Moses then begins a process to turn over the reins:
1. Commission the new leader. Numbers 27:19
The first thing you must do is call the leader. Give him or her direction and understanding of their new call.
2. Delegate authority immediately. Numbers 27:20
Next you need to immediately give him or her authority over parts of the organization. Moses was not finished leading, but as of this commissioning he was done leading people into battle or even in the new directions they would take to get to the Promised Land. That responsibility and authority now belonged to Joshua.
3. Create a ceremony. Numbers 27:21
We are not nearly creative enough in our surrender of change. Too often we put someone new in charge of a new area, and no one realizes it happened. This goes back to point one, be clear.
Create a ceremony that everyone participates in to celebrate the new leader and direction. If you have led well thus far, succession is a time for celebrating, because it means you have something to hand off.
Succession Change can destroy organizations, but it doesn’t have to, if we will take the time to follow these simple rules and steps.