The strength of any organization lies in its ability to be sustainable, and nothing insures an organization’s sustainability more than the stability of its executive leadership. This is why leadership succession is so vital a subject for organizations to pay attention to, yet it is widely ignored. According to Kets de Vries (1988), many leaders are reluctant to identify a successor for many reasons, including the fear they will lose power. (p. 25) However, the inevitable reality is that no leader lives forever, and someone will eventually replace them, whether through “resignation of improprieties, death in office, voluntary retirement” or another opportunity presents itself. (Farquhar, 1994, p. 47) This guaranteed shift in leadership can disrupt the culture of an organization and send it off course from its mission. (Gilmore, 1988)
Such a loss of mission can be seen in scripture through the nation of Israel. King David had a plan for succession that placed his son Solomon as the king after him, which eliminated the attempted takeover by Solomon’s brother Adonijah. (I Kings 1) In contrast, very few of the kings of Israel following David had a succession plan, and the nation found itself spiraling into disarray and disobedience to the Lord, violating its mission. This lack of succession planning landed the nation of Israel in exile and the people scattered.
Such an example is why it is imperative for organizations to plan for succession, expected and unexpected, at the executive level of leadership. (Santora & Sarros, 2001, p. 107) The need for a succession plan is crucial simply because the health and well being of an organization is tested when an executive level change occurs, and every organization desires the sustainability to overcome such a change.
Crossway Bibles. (2007). ESV: study Bible: English standard version (ESV text ed.). Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles.
De Vries, M. F. R. K. (1988). The Dark Side of CEO Succession. Management Review, 77(8), 23.
Farquhar, K. (1994). The myth of the forever leader: Organizational recovery from broken leadership. Business Horizons, 37(5), 42.
Gilmore, T. N. (1988). Making a leadership change: How organizations and leaders can handle leadership transitions successfully. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Santora, J. C., & Sarros, J. C. (2001). CEO succession in nonprofit community-based organizations: is there room for insiders at the top?, 6(2/3), 107–111.