The success of a leader, an operation, a party, a company, a work depends on its sustainability for and over a long period of time.
I recently came across the story of a food place that had been in action and serving their signature dish with the same quality, for over three generations. The technicality and know-how had been handed down with care, each generation being groomed to take over, improving the peripherals but not the core content of the dish or its recipe or method of cooking. So, even today, long queues stretch at their door, with people patiently waiting to collect their orders!
Recent elections show the need and importance of having or grooming the next line of leaders so as to ensure a smooth transfer of power. Success indeed needs successors for it to be true and long lasting. One of the primary tasks of leadership and management is to identify and train the next order so they are ready to take over in case of eventuality or eventually. Once the work or party company has gone through teething troubles and opposition and it becomes established, what should be the prime obsession and occupation of the leadership at any level is the stance of being on thea lookout for the one or ones they needed to train so as to impart and carry on. Unfortunately, most leaders are preoccupied with safeguarding and securing their positions rather than seeking, identifying and training their successors.
Nowhere is this lack felt more than in the christian churches and ministry circles. Church leaders, ministry heads and NGO directors hold close to their chest their posts and portfolios, refusing to recognize and share their experience as well as their expertise with the next line of potentials. They not only do this, but also refuse to prepare for the day they would have to physically move on, be it age or otherwise!
This is doubly sad because the Bible is full of principles and examples that emphasize and reiterate as well teach this getting ready a successor as a prime need and task to be ingrained into the very fabric of God’s administration and authority plans. God is the God of generations and works, not on a short-term basis, but over a long period or passage of time. He is all about soundly and solidly rooting any venture or project and seeing it handed down or carried over by successors. No wonder Charles Wesley declared: God buries His workmen but carries on His work!
While it is needed to raise next line of leadership, it is also important to note that unwise or indiscriminate choices of candidates or unsuitable people will lead to potential disaster or damage, often undermining or undoing the very work you want or need to establish. Every monarchy in the world will testify to this, that faithless and fickle crown princes or inheritors can demolish the work of their predecessors. Knowing how to assess and identify the DNA of your successor is of great importance.
Most often than not, leaders are strapped to know how to choose or select their protégées and this lack of knowledge is often the key to their unwillingness or failure to let go. They often genuinely and rightly fear to release into the hands of others the work or service they have slogged over or paid the price to form and establish. Taking our cue from the Bible, we can identify hints and clues which would help us in choosing who to invest our lives in!
1. Be observant and alert from day one, keeping watch over your people and observe the nuances of their working. Grooming takes time and so you need to seek early on to zoom in on the one who can follow you in your work. Keep watch and catch them unawares doing the unexpected, when no one is watching or without any fanfare!
2. Learn to be intuitive and instinctive rather than working by a list of rules. It is not that you should not have a set of expectations, but allowing it to blind you to the right one who can upgrade what you leave behind is a downer. You may miss the person because you think he is missing the mark!
3. Look beyond the exterior to the core of the person. People often mask their true self in order to gain acceptance in the crowd or for fear of being an outcast. Often a diamond is hidden as an ordinary stone, until someone takes time and effort on making it faceted so that it shines truly. Don’t miss a gem because you weren’t savvy enough to see beyond and behind the camouflage!
3. Avoid pettiness and smallness Don’t allow prejudice to cloud your judgement. Learn to look beyond personality clashes to sense the real worth of the person. Chances are that the one who has guts and gall to challenge you will be strong enough to implement in the future the innovation and evolution you drew up plans and provided for!
4. Don’t be afraid to invest in a few rather than just one. That way, even if the one you thought would be your successor moves on for some reason, you already have your eyes on the next to fill the gap!
5. Investigate and explore your candidate. Don’t be scared to probe into the person’s history. Sit down and talk to him or her and hear their story. Pick up the nuances of their character and their personal orientation. Take time to check them out and see if their immediate supervisors or neighbors can give a good report about them. Select such ones whom you have whetted fully and thoroughly!
6. Don’t be in a hurry to decide or come to conclusions. Take time to think over and discuss with others your choices. Involve others in the choice and let things slowly and surely fall into place. Train them and work on shortcomings while encouraging their strengths. Make space to prove them well before entrusting!
7. Set an example and ask them to follow. If you are not a role model, you cannot train nor command respect. In the areas where you are weak, they can be apprenticed to others who can bolster them up!
8. Build a relationship with such people whom you can designate as your inheritors and protégés. Be real with them and train them to be real. Impart and share your best for them to be the best. Begin involving them in decision-making and respect their ideas. Mentor and teach them the right way, taking care to protect them if they need it. Don’t show favoritism towards them, but let them know that they have a godfather in you!
9. Don’t hesitate to swing the sword. Be close enough to put an arm around the shoulder but far enough to be able to use the rod of correction. Demand and expect more from the one you are training than someone else of the same cadre who may not be the one you choose to follow you. Do not make allowances for their mistakes for they are your successors. Do not pamper them for they are being primed up to take your place!
10. When time is right, begin entrusting. Don’t keep them dangling in the air or keep them second guessing. Give them freedom to decide where they want to be and send them with your blessing. Don’t keep them in tenterhooks, not knowing what to do or unable to move on or stay put. Your second liners are not secondhand people, but your legacy. Applaud and encourage when they do right, reprimand and show the right way when they fail. Give them your trust and they will measure up!
Producing second line leadership is hard and time consuming, but you dare not be without doing it. God has not left us clueless, but has through His word given us solid principles and natural illustrations for training of the second line or next generation of leaders. World histories as well as legends placed in a milieu of cultures and societies showcase the pattern and module for training. It only needs us to give our time and effort to the task.
The need of the hour are crown princes and princesses who can carry on our legacy.
Your secondliners will also be your defense and strong supporters in times of need. They carry your imprint on them and so be careful what you leave behind.
Choose wisely and mold without insecurity or sense of competition at their competency.