Leadership Succession

Successful succession planning depends on having a robust talent management process and the right leadership succession tools.


What Is Leadership Succession Planning?

Within any organization, people in leadership positions eventually cease to fulfill that role. This can occur for a variety of reasons, such as:

  • promotion within the organization
  • move to part-time arrangements for better work-life balance
  • voluntary departure from the organization to pursue a career elsewhere
  • involuntary departure from the organization
  • retirement
  • serious illness
  • death

Succession planning is about ensuring that the next line of leaders is in place, ready to take the next step when needed. Organizations that do this well benefit from increased employee direction and motivation, greater responsiveness to change and higher long-term effectiveness. Successful succession planning depends on having a robust talent management process in place and on having the right leadership succession tools.

Growing Your Future Leaders

When key leadership roles in your organization become available, how ready are your future leaders to step up to the challenge? World-class organizations know the importance of having top talent lined up and ready to go. The many benefits of effective talent management convey to both the organization and to the individual ... as do the risks of failing to plan for your organization's leadership succession.

Preparing your employees for future leadership roles consists of two activities: planning and development. Planning includes the following activities:

  • identifying employees who show potential for assuming greater responsibility
  • assessing those individuals against some kind of leadership model to understand their strengths and development needs
  • developing your leadership model – or set of models – that describe the elements of leadership critical to your organization
  • identifying the kinds of roles that will need to be filled
  • ensuring a flow of succession opportunities – even if it means removing current leaders that are performing adequately in their role

Developing future leaders goes beyond the classroom. In fact, successful leaders cite other factors besides training when asked to describe their best source of preparation:

  • stretch experiences
  • a formative mentor
  • dealing with hardship and conflict

A progressive view of leadership development will emphasize all of these strategies over a training-heavy approach. However, often an element of "divine intervention" by a development-minded CEO is needed to execute some of the riskier strategies:

  • putting an employee in charge of key negotiations with a competitor, vendor or union
  • tapping an employee to turn around a struggling division or function
  • tasking an employee to build out a new capability, develop a new product or enter a new market

The benefits of a thorough approach to succession management accrue to the organization as well as the individual. Organizations achieve the primary goal of having employees ready to step into leadership roles. And they avoid much of the risk linked to bringing too many outsiders into key, high-level positions.

However, not to be undervalued is the benefit felt by employees even before their opportunity emerges. These employees, who are often star performers as middle managers or even individual contributors, can too easily be attracted away by offers from other organizations. "You have to leave to get ahead" is commonly heard in organizations without a capable approach to developing and promoting future leaders. Organizations that prepare their aspiring leaders for higher levels of responsibility replace this talk with higher levels of employee engagement, retention and hope. And they then follow through with those appointments.

Gain the benefits of effective succession planning in your organization by putting in place a robust leadership succession process. We encourage you to explore the succession planning resources and tools in this section.

Expert View Author: MS ABS

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Check out our comprehensive leadership succession planning toolkit. The guide and software tool helps you initially identify your leadership succession positions through to analyzing and reporting succession progress. Download and start using today.

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