Great leaders train successors to carry on after them and are not threatened by the potential of these successors. In the Bible, Moses trained Joshua as a successor. Whom did Joshua train? Nobody. And, all of Israel suffered. Elijah trained Elisha. Jesus trained the twelve apostles over a period of three years. The Apostle Paul trained Timothy.
Great leaders produce the next generation of great leaders. They must be very generous with the power of their office, and they must be extremely secure. Great leaders are continually sharing, teaching, and demonstrating so their successor(s) can see what needs to be done.
At Credo, I encourage our associates to not measure their success by their own achievements, but rather by the achievements of their clients. Because, after all, if your clients are doing unusually better than other people’s clients, there’s something to that. Obviously, you’re doing something right for your clients, which is why we all got into this business in the first place!
In the same way, great leaders put a tremendous amount of emphasis on the success of their successors. They want the mission to live on, and that simply can’t happen unless there is someone prepared to take the baton. Even better is to make that successor wiser and more prepared than you are! Then, have them continue the trend. Each successor gets better and better and better. That’s how a mission really grows and can make a major impact.
“A leader who produces other leaders multiplies his influence — true success comes only when every generation continues to develop the next generation.” (John Maxwell – Developing the Leaders Around You)
Great leaders acknowledge that their leadership role is temporary. They tend to hold positions lightly, being well aware that hanging on too tight to a position makes it all that more difficult to release. They are humble to release their position of power at the right time.
Again, to reference the Bible, John the Baptist had a tremendous response to his leadership and ministry. However, when Jesus came on the scene, John said, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). How wise was that!
As Jim Collins states in Good to Great, executives who ignited transformations of organizations from good to great said, “Look, I don’t really know where we should take this bus. But I know this much: If we get the right people on the bus, the right people in the right seats, and the wrong people off the bus, then we’ll figure out how to take it someplace great.” A leader’s challenge is to identify the right people and then develop and empower them to take the organization to someplace great. This all follows through to planning for a successor.
A word of caution, however, when training the next generation of leaders. Do not “put all of your eggs in one basket.” Do not just train one person to take your place (often called the Timothy Principle). You should train several leaders and place them in key leadership roles (known as the Key Man Strategy). If you train only one person to take your place, what will happen if for some reason they are not able to replace you?
Jesus is a perfect example of succession planning done well. He knew His purpose when He came to the earth (see weeks 4 and 11). He came to save the lost and to build His church. Jesus spent a tremendous amount of time training His successors. “Greater things than I have done shall you do”. He left twelve successors to carry on the vital tasks that He had started. Jesus knew that they would not fail. Why? He had trained the next generation of great leaders. From the beginning, Jesus told these leaders that He would not always be with them. That is a huge thing that is often forgotten!
Jesus arguably trained the most successful leadership team of all times. As a result, after Jesus was crucified, they continued to experience confidence and growth as they followed His example by effectively training their own successors. Their success after Jesus left them is convincing evidence that great leadership can be passed on by deep investment in a plan for succession. In practice, we should all remember that good stewardship includes preparing for the time when a leader will no longer lead. Leaders that model their succession planning after Jesus’ example will allow the mission of their organizations to thrive and grow after they step down.