Is Your Succession Plan Designed for Success?

For what is now nearly twenty years, I have maintained a personal mantra for myself as I deliberately act to lead and develop others.  I came about this perspective after realizing the importance of not only my own personal achievement of a promotion, but the effect this would have upon the career goals and trajectories of the rest of my organization.  The constant reminder to me was—and remains—this:

My first job when I get a job,

is to find someone to take my job.

I had come to understand that in every instance in which I was assuming a new role, or a new level of responsibility within my agency, that the full measure of my success in would in no small part be highly associated with my efforts in helping support others I would now be leading; to help them grow in their own skills, expertise and effective use of their talents.  By doing so, I would be accomplishing three essential objectives of whatever position I held.  Those are:

  • I would be demonstratively leading my team, and its members, in ways in which they individually and collectively could and would be successful.
  • I would be accelerating and continuing to develop my own leadership style into its most effective set of methods and techniques best-suited for me and my job.
  • And I would be growing in a manner, and at a rate in which I would be more fully preparing myself for the next opportunity to advance in my organization.


That last one is particularly important, because it ties into the first objective so directly.  You see, in every organization, there are opportunities for one or more persons to advance.  Maybe it’s a promotion, or significantly new and greater responsibilities associated with a program or project.  Or perhaps a very new service or product opportunity is going to be assigned to a high performer.

But every organization knows that promoting a highly-desirable candidate cannot come at the expense of creating an impactful void elsewhere.  Every department head understands well that promoting a person to new duties when the company’s pool of leadership is too fragile can come at the expense of a significant loss of group, division or organizational capacity or performance will most certainly cause genuine losses in rate of performance, quality, and perhaps most important of all, momentum.

Therefore, it is imperative that the post-heroic leader actively incorporates success-oriented learning and development opportunities for her or his team on a regular and thoughtful basis.  This also includes the leader’s deliberate personal investment of time and opportunities for their direct reports to take on assignments that are occasionally not recognized as within the strengths of that employee.

For example, a leader may recognize that she has two or three employees who are defining themselves as informal leaders among the team, and who are all highly talented and strong performers.  In many cases, we know that such a scenario will also include a variety of the particular strengths these employees may have.  Where one person may be very skilled in operational settings, he may have a peer who excels at the administrative aspects of the units charge or mission, while yet another colleague has a superior capability in how she manages logistical components of the team mission.

The leader of these employees would understand each of the three’s skill sets and their strengths, and look for meaningful ways in which they can grow through projects and programming assignments that bring them into direct forms of responsibility that will challenge them and cause learning and growth.  The operationally strong employee, given an administrative role on an upcoming project, will have the opportunity to use his strengths in new ways, and still have his colleagues as resources for support.  Likewise, his peers will enjoy new growth as their leader exposes them to different scenarios that are essential to the purpose and business of the organization.

In the end, that leader will assure his organization that future leaders in the form of supervisors, managers and executives are being developed, and will be prepared for successes in all areas of the organization.

This article was originally published at