Jumping away from the business world it is interesting to consider what nature teaches about succession – one of the foundation blocks for all leaders.
In Ecological science, succession is a fundamental concept that refers to the* “more or less predictable and orderly changes” that occur to the composition or structure of a community. These changes occur naturally and progressively, following the formation of a new habitat.
In business however, whilst there are some parallels, succession is rarely natural or progressive.
To the contrary, rather than evolving naturally, succession is often hampered by human motivations and desires – consider, for example, what occurs after the creation of a new enterprise of a merger.
Have you ever heard a business founder comment that “no-one can run this business like me?!?”
The practise of embedding one’s self in a business is counter productive to its growth and it necessarily blocks change. The healthier alternative that many managers miss is the precise opposite – aiming to extract themselves from daily requirements as soon as possible and ensuring a strong succession resource and business wide support and strategies exists.
This is the way of a leader. Leaders allow evolution. They encourage it.
In my experience, if there is a natural path that business succession seeks to follow, one way to help find it is to introduce the leadership concept of “stewardship”.
In broad terms, in a stewardship model, a business leader is asked to direct the course of a business for a period, contribute to it meaningfully and then hand it over to the next leader in a better state. It is towards the achievement of these objectives that incentives should be aligned.
Of course, let us not forget that stewardship is central to Leadership in the first place – as succession very much is a s well. As Leaders, we are all responsible for achieving such outcomes. Great leaders teach. Great leaders help to grow their team. Great leaders are creating something much bigger than themselves.