Leadership Transitions: Increase the Odds for Success
Questions for leaders in transition.
Also of Interest
"The old is gone, the new is here."
When talking about transformed lives, these words offer hope. But when used to describe an organization's transition from an established top leader to the next person, they may not have the same effect. In fact, the chances of success may be no better than a coin toss.
Research reported by The Leadership Transition Institute (LTI) shows that up to half of leadership transitions go poorly. Segmented further, 3 percent result in a quick and spectacular failure, while 47 percent result in a long, quiet struggle. When it comes to Christian organizations and ministries, the spectacular failures prove easy to spot and capture headlines in Christian media. But the quiet strugglers, the relatively enormous group, earn the label "quiet" for a reason—they receive no attention.
When I became the new president of a faith-based organization, I replaced both the founder and previous president. At previous organizations, as a staff leader I occupied courtside seats for top leadership transitions. So I've seen the good and not-so-good.
When the transition at the top involved me, I spent a couple months reading and readying the best I could. Along the way, I noticed oddities in how this topic is routinely examined, reported, and taught. First, most coaching comes from consultants rather than past participants—meaning expert opinions and detailed processes that exist for a price. Second, the angle taken typically belongs to the outgoing leader or the organization as a whole. The new leader's perspective goes unreported, underrepresented, and unfairly dismissed as less important.
So as spokesperson for all the new leaders like me, I developed a (free!) list of questions/cautions that the new leader should ask—as should those who desire to see him or her succeed. After capturing those answers, share them with the outgoing leader and the board or other governance body. Each question includes answers that the new leader will likely give, if assured of sufficient safety to be honest.
1. What does a successful transition look like for you?
2. What does a new leader fear going into a transition?
3. What does a new leader wish the outgoing leader understood?
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