Thursday, 21 June 2012

Succession Planning as a Form of Leadership

By Glen Speering


The Northern Territory suffers from high rates of staff turnover, from high levels of churn, and a shortage of experienced workers in most professions. Staff turnover can lead to continuation problems of programs and ventures, resulting in poor outcomes for end users (clients and participants) and relationships between partner organisations (Speering, 2012). Vacant leadership positions are then often filled, with no continuation or succession plan being apparent.

In the absence of on the job training, supervision or mentoring, it is succession planning that becomes the essential element of preparing staff for leadership positions and limiting problems with program continuation. However, what is not often though of is that the act of preparing succession plans, is in itself a form of demonstrated leadership.

As it is “... the principle job of a leader to develop the next generation of leaders” (as cited in Groves, 2007: p. 241), then any process which develops leadership is in and of itself an act of leadership.

Demonstrating the value of specific skills, for when a member of an organisation leaves, is an important process for providing pointers for the next person (generation) to be working in that position. Providing pointers and guides to what works and what has been discovered to be valuable can be counterweighted by the elaboration of problems and unresolved issues within a leadership position.

This week, a soon to be retiring member of the Centre for School Leadership, Learning and Development (CSLLD) team, demonstrated elements of the above process. In what have clearly been unintentional and natural acts, tremendous leadership has been shown throughout the week. Knowledge transfer was apparent with a personal development and reflection activity (Myers Briggs Type Indicator session). A succession plan was also put forward for comment and discussion. The act of preparation and thoughtfulness shown towards other team members at the CSLLD by preparing the succession plan is an important piece of work which is not often carried out. 

Us humans sometimes appear to have a little princess syndrome where we think that no-one else could possibly do our job, or that we won’t need to confront the thought of being moved on, or about the hole that is left when we move up. After all, for most, there is a hole that we have had to fill, with no help: So why should I help out someone else when I didn’t get it? And it is in this space where it is important to put aside natural tendencies, to self-evaluate, to self-reflect, and to make sure the right thing is done for the next generation – the next person. That act of being outside of the self, to do what is right, what is beneficial, is an act of leadership. And an important one at that.

Kevin S. Groves, (2007) "Integrating leadership development and succession planning best practices", Journal of Management Development, Vol. 26 Iss: 3, pp.239 – 260

1 comment:

  1. Good reminder Glen. We'll start developing a succession plan for the eLearning team. Making it a live and regularly reviewed document. Already we diligently document our work in our project blog however: http://ol.cslld.edu.au , along with a calendar that is acting like a project planning graph, and our tasks kept and checked off in a Google Doc that is updated every fortnight.

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