All leaders will transition their leadership. It is not a question of if, but rather when will I hand it to someone else. Having this reality in perspective from the beginning of a leadership role can be very helpful when we come to the end. As Stephen Covey reminds us, “Begin with the end in mind.” Here are some practical reminders that will help ensure that you transition your leadership well to those who come after you.
1. Be intentional about your transition – plan for it.
a. Develop a bench of potential candidates to take your role
b. Expose them to tasks and people that will prepare them to lead in your place.
c. Include them in problem solving and discussions that will stretch them and get them out of their comfort zones.
2. Make the selection for your replacement far enough in advance so that you can overlap some and coach the new leader for a period of time.
a. Don’t make this overlap too long and be sure to give the new leader lots of ‘room’ to lead and make changes.
b. Make this timeline clear from the beginning and then exit the stage.
c. Give them freedom to make whatever personnel or system changes that they see are needed. And don’t get upset when they do bring change to things that you held near and dear. You are no longer the leader!
3. Position your replacement for success by not only giving them the title or role, but also give them the authority to lead.
a. A visible ceremony where the title and authority is passed from the old leader to the new is a very helpful reminder to all that “the old has gone and the new has come.”
b. Note that when God transitioned the leadership of Israel from Moses to Joshua, there was a commissioning ceremony in front of the leadership community led by Eleazar the priest. Note too that this commissioning ceremony was God’s idea and that it was done before Moses’ death. See Numbers 27:22-23.
c. Position yourself to be a counselor and coach for a period of time. You can act as one who provides context and background, even advice (if asked for).
4. Move on! Don’t linger, but rather trust God for what’s next!
a. We talk about the importance of finding our identity in being a servant of God and not in our leadership role or title. The test will come when we are transitioning to some other leader.
b. Do we cling to our leadership role or freely give it away to another? Do we demand a lateral or upward organizational move or can we submit to another’s leadership and follow them (even if perhaps they were your direct report previously)?
So who are those candidates that you are intentionally grooming to take your spot? Is that something that excites you or threatens / unsettles you? Kingdom leaders are givers, not takers!