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Leadership Succession

Leadership Succession

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Last edited May 2, 2023

Leadership Succession

There are times when a business or a team is synonymous with their leader, for example Virgin and Richard Branson and Manchester United and Alex Ferguson. After 26 years as Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson has decided to retire, so how does the organisation or team survive when the leader moves on, especially those when the leader has become part of the brand image or reputation of the business or team?

The first thing to recognise with these successful leadership led organisations is that they have support from the rest of the team. Ultimately these leaders have teams – board members or team members – to answer to and help implement their vision. The relentless drive to create high performing teams will always ensure an easier transition of a team leader.

In the early days of Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United career he set the tone for his vision and strategy for the organisation. Underperforming players were shipped out, he drew up a youth scouting network to identify youth performers to come up through the ranks, clearly thinking long term plans for the organisation. Whilst these changes didn’t bring immediate results for the club the support he received allowed him to manage these changes through, which then brought in the results. By strengthening the foundations of the club and defining the values for everyone to work towards, he secured the future of it allowing the club to prosper without him and enable the transition.

The best way to make any transition, gaps created by people moving on or being promoted, go as smoothly as possible is to create a framework where we:

  • Develop a vision that the business or team is working towards – if we have developed, articulated and shared a clear and compelling vision, it makes it easier for a new team leader to step in and for the team to see and sense a consistent direction
  • Develop clear values – by agreeing the ‘way we go about things’ , irrespective of who is running the team or business, facilitates any transition
  • Agree the measures of success – what are the KPIs that define success
  • Get the right people with the right attitude – effective performance management will create a team with the right attitudes, people who embrace change, are open to learning, adaptable and positive

Finally – throw out the previous job spec and start with a blank piece of paper and map out what the role requires. Too often we just use what we had before because it’s there.

Continuity, stability, focus, and teamwork are critical for business success; in a world where change is the norm and healthy, the way we transition our business and team leaders can really impact our business performance.

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