The Leader’s Foundation: Leadership Transitions

Whereas some people seem to enjoy and even thrive on change, most people prefer stability.  The unknown is both exciting and scary.  As we trust the Lord on our journey of life we can count on Him to make our paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6).  Yet, it seems that the analogy of being thrown into the deep end of the pool and see who survives is still happening too frequently.  A good shepherd leader (and organization) can and must do better.

A study of leadership transitions in the Bible provides rich insights to guide the process.  In examples like Moses to Joshua, Elijah to Elisha, Jesus to His Disciples and many more we see that certain processes enhance a healthy transition.  Overlap time is important to build needed understanding and competence.  Platforming the new leader for potential success is critical.  Building confidence and providing resources makes a big difference.

If we are willing to turn to the business context for insight we can find helpful research, principles and practices.  None are more beneficial than those identified by author and consultant Ram Charan in two of his books, The Leadership Pipeline and Leaders at all Levels.  In The Leadership Pipeline we learn:

Three key components must be considered for each level of leadership: skill requirements—the new capabilities required to execute new responsibilities; time applications—new time frames that govern how one works; work values—what people believe is important and so becomes the focus of their effort.  The challenge for organizations is to make sure that people in leadership positions are assigned to the level appropriate to their skill, time applications, and values. (p. 8)

“To build effective leadership at all levels, organizations need to identify leadership candidates early, provide them with growth assignments, give them useful feedback, and coach them.” (p. 11)  “When organizations start to think in terms of pipeline requirements rather than job-title responsibilities, they are in a much better position to develop their leaders.” (p. 12)

Now, let me suggest that you think back on your most recent leadership transition.  How well were you transitioned for success?  How well are you now positioned for success?  Do you barely have your nose above water?  Are you tired of treading water?  Or have you found that place where you are making a growing contribution in such a way that is healthy and effective?  When others look at you and your role would they honestly say that you are thriving and that one day they might like a similar role?  If not, why not?

Coaching has become an exploding profession that helps leaders discern their own solutions to their most pressing challenges.  Mentors continue to resource leaders in new roles through the sharing of wisdom and experience.  From the time a leader anticipates a transition until he or she is six months or more into a new role, a coach and a mentor is invaluable.  A wise transitioning leader will not try to navigate such a passage alone.

Along with asking the Lord for wisdom (James 1:5), also look to leaders who have gone before you to learn from them (Hebrews 13:7).  Your health and success depends on this!

Next Blog: How and where will you focus your effort?


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