Identify promising future leaders early on, and start grooming them as your successors.
If you’re a leader at your company, it can be scary to think about moving on. How can you ensure that the venture continues to flourish without you?
You can start by finding the right successor. According to Drucker, your best choice is probably going to come from inside your company.
That’s because the ultimate goal of any “succession decision” should be to keep the spirit of the institution alive. The new leader has to be someone who can continue to carry out the core practices that define the company.
For example, when he took over at Apple, Tim Cook’s task was to maintain the company’s legacy of innovation, as established by his predecessor, Steve Jobs. Cook rose to the challenge, and has even introduced the Apple Watch, a whole new product category.
It’s worth noting that although choosing a successor is always a gamble, you’re far less likely to disrupt the spirit of an organization when you select someone from within – someone who already lives and breathes the company culture and values.
Harvard University learned this lesson the hard way when it chose economist Lawrence Summers to head the institution. While his predecessors had all been selected internally, Summers, despite having taught at Harvard, was essentially an outsider. And after only six years, he was pushed out by a vote of no-confidence from Harvard’s faculty.
As you can see, succession is tricky business, and that’s why planning for it is essential.
One way to plan is to implement a systematic development program that identifies and grooms potential leaders. That way, when a position opens up, your company has a ready pool of qualified candidates.
And if you’re serious about succession planning, it’s also critical that you elevate your organization’s human resources (HR) department to a position of power. Your HR team should include skilled, qualified executives capable of identifying and supporting promising leadership potential.