Leadership and succession planning

Over the years I have worked with boards and one of the things that has struck me is how few leaders want to let go of the reins once they are in position.  Even though we have voluntary codes and good practice on what good governance and leadership should be about, values, mission statements etc when it comes to preparing the ground to leave the organisation in a better place than when they joined, succession planning appears low on the list.  How many boards consider who will succeed them and their Executive team?  Do they consider that this is a real risk to business continuity?  There are a few organisations that have thought about their leadership and their succession has been smooth but they are few.

I have been reading Alex Ferguson’s book on Leadership (a great read by the way, even if you are not a football fan) and the analogy to organisations is where is your talent pool for your Executive and Board.  The team that plays on the pitch during the match are often a third of the potential team.  The team is the whole team not just those playing, and if one is injured tired or not playing well the manager has the ability to make a substitution, how many organisations have that ability to immediately replace one of their senior people?  But as Alex Ferguson’s book shows success was not immediate, it was a long term investment in youth, and youth developed to play at the highest level.  We know that the world of work is changing and most probably it will be even more different than I can imagine, but succession planning only works if there is more than sufficient capacity and talent in our organisations.

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