On the Successful Transfer of Leadership

When David was old and full of days, he installed his son Solomon as king over Israel. – 1 Chronicles 23:1

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One of the most difficult things for a leader to do is to effectively pass his responsibilities onto the person that follows … to his successor. David was very old when he faced such a transition, effectively turning over the leadership of Israel to his son, Solomon. What factors, if any, did David need to consider? What factors should we consider when handing project or ministry reins to another?

First, the outgoing leader needs to give his successor a complete understanding of the past (significant decisions made and the rationale behind them) coupled with the freedom and blessing to explore the future. Second, the outgoing leader needs to give his successor the freedom to build something new without the lingering effects of battles left unfinished. Third, if possible, the outgoing leader needs to leave his successor an example of faithfulness and humility, which are both essential for success. Finally, the outgoing leader just needs to shut up, leave, and let the new leader lead.

Successful organizations are led by a succession of leaders who understand these principles and apply them consistently through the years. Unfortunately, many fail because they do not.

The idol of today pushes the hero of yesterday out of our recollection; and will, in turn, be supplanted by his successor of tomorrow. – Washington Irving

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