Planning for Leadership Transition

No leader of an organization can last forever, but staff often behave as if their leader were immortal. Understandably, the staff may not want to spotlight the need to plan for a transition if their current leader is effective, or if the leader is ineffective but powerful and well connected. Leaders may imagine themselves indispensable, or deny that they must create a life or identity that no longer includes their organizational title. Organizations, or boards of directors in particular, may deal with the inevitable transitions in a proactive or reactive way.

Yet the need for planning is undeniable—an effective successor is essential for the sustainability of the organization. Preparations for a transition should allow for a long lead time and well-balanced consideration of relevant issues.

This issue of The Manager considers strategy and process for managing a leadership transition. It describes how current leaders, staff members, and boards of directors can engage their organization in navigating the uncertainties of a search for a new leader. It explores ways to prepare for future transitions by developing leadership talents within the organization.