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Who's Filling the Voids?

During the latter part of my tenure with General Motors, one of our senior leaders decided to retire after 41 years with the company. He was responsible for running a computer program designed to track statistical date regarding domestic dealers. Two months following his retirement, I saw him back in the office. I asked why he was back and he told me they had no one else to run the program. He was paid a consultant's fee, his retirement, and his pension. No one was groomed to take his place.


I tell leaders all the time their first assignment in leadership is to find their replacement and start moving yourself out of that role. Those who practice Christianity and study the Bible know Jesus's first task was to select 12 men He would prepare to do the work of the church. Jesus knew His time on earth would be short and someone needed to replace Him once His assignment was completed. In like manner, leaders in corporate America must be deliberate in identifying and positioning their successors within the first year of their tenure. Failure to do so puts pressure on them to find the right replacement and leave the company in good hands knowing leadership voids will be filled.


I have seen businesses, schools, churches, scout units, athletic teams, non-profits, and other agencies close following the departure of leaders. No one was raised to succeed and those in leadership made no concerted effort to move themselves out of leadership. Companies that do not identify successors from within will scramble to find qualified talent outside the company doors; however, these people are not familiar with the culture of the company or the people who run it. Such voids are detrimental to the sustainability of the organization and will lead to its eventual demise.


No one person has all the knowledge, wisdom, or insight to lead an organization alone. Great leaders surround themselves with a team with the capacity to lead. Leaders look for other leaders who possess tools and resources to make the right decisions and choices. Leaders know their time tables and ensure their seats will be filled with people who create favor for their organization after departure. They do not leave the cupboards bare. The department I left at General Motors still plays a major role in the support of dealers in the United States. I recently discovered that a leader I mentor plays an important part on the management team of that department. He uses many of the systems I established twenty years ago. They have been modified, but the foundation is key to that departments operation.


No matter your leadership position, business owner, pastor, principal, or general in the military, fill the voids of your position before you leave. If the organization folds, or crumbles after you leave, you have erred in your primary leadership assignment - to prepare someone to take your place.




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