Leadership Succession: Or Lack Of…

What we know about leaders is that they are influential in any organization. This is particularly apparent when the current leader has been the original entrepreneur who started the business and whose whole life and passion has been devoted to the enterprise. In this kind of situation (but not exclusively so), we find that such leaders are loath to consider succession planning or even mentoring others who might eventually, one day, take their place.

Of course, in this regard, it appears that leaders want to hang on and to do so often at any cost. Even if for example, their failure to pave the way for a successor means that the business, the employees, and the family all end in personal chaos and possibly financial ruin, a stalwart leader still will not hand it over. Why would this be the case, given the grave consequences of not planning for succession?

Simply, one needs to understand human behavior. In short, our behavior is governed by six primary and basic needs. First, the need for security control and certainty. Second, the need for variety and “uncertainty.” Third, the need for significance and importance. Fourth, the need for love and connection. These four needs are the basic needs for survival. The last two needs are directly oriented towards fulfillment. These include both personal growth and development as well as leaving a contribution or legacy.

So what does this mean for leaders? In a nutshell, leaders who refuse to hand over are caught up in satisfying their need for both control and significance. Unless they are prepared, or have the insight, to recognize that there are other needs that they might like to fulfill, then they will be locked in to satisfying the first and second basic needs, no matter what. No amount of badgering or forcing your opinion will in any way move them to consider other options. The key therefore is to try to entice them into satisfying their other needs particularly the fifth and sixth basic needs. Of course, this is a skilled conversation, but one that has to be undertaken.

So your challenge if you are facing this situation as a leader is to ask yourself, “How can I get my higher needs satisfied while at the same time allowing others to take over and learn the ropes?”

If you are observing a leader who is hanging on to their role, at some point, perhaps you could ask them, “What would it take for you to feel sufficiently comfortable to begin the process of handing over?”

Dr Darryl Cross is a clinical and organizational psychologist as well as a credentialed executive and personal coach. He is also an author, international speaker and university lecturer. Dr Darryl is about assisting people to find their strengths and reach their goals. Further information on Dr Darryl Cross can be seen at www.DrDarryl.com

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