Elements to Consider When Replacing Founding Leader

Succession planning is a very difficult endeavor for any leader. Many avoid succession planning because it threatens their influence and security, causing some to ignore it altogether. (de Vries, 1988, p. 25) Even those who create formalized systems can unconsciously sabotage their efforts, stalling training by withholding responsibilities to insure no one is a capable successor. (Schein, 2010, p. 281) There is an inevitability, however, that succession will happen, and if not handled properly, it could send the organization off course. (Gilmore, 1988)

In the case of a founder relinquishing control of an organization to a non-family member, there are a lot of things to consider and touchy landmines to be aware of. Inevitably, when transition happens from a founding leader, each member of the organization will consider which cultural elements are valuable to them, and which they would like to see go. (Schein, 2010, p. 281) It is vital for all involved to keep in mind that even though the culture of the organization reflects the founding leader in varying degrees, for good or bad, it is what has made the organization what it is, and there must be a degree of separation of the culture from the founder. (Schein, 2010, p. 281) It is vital for an objective analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the existing subcultures to identify what is worth duplicating throughout the organization. (Schein, 2010, p. 283)

Most importantly is identifying the non-family member individual who will replace the founding leader. Ideally it would be someone who understands what is needed for the organization’s survival, while also conserving the valued parts of the old culture, identifying as a part of the established cultural group. (Schein, 2010, p. 281)

What leadership style would be most effective for a successor?


De Vries, M. F. R. K. (1988). The Dark Side of Ceo Succession. Management Review, 77(8), 23.

Gilmore, T. N. (1988). Making a leadership change: How organizations and leaders can handle leadership transitions successfully. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Schein, E. H. (2010). Organizational culture and leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.


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