Follow the Leader

                                       The true test of your leadership is whether what                                    you start continues on after you are gone.
Dr. Rocco Paone, United States Naval Academy Professor

In my last year at the Naval Academy, Dr. Paone shared this thought with me, and encouraged me to ponder how I could achieve this in my life. I found the best way to fulfill this challenge is to train your successor. This is critical for the organization and your career, as "there is no success without a successor."

I would modify this phrase to "there is often no promotion without a successor." Some people have the mistaken notion that, if no one can take their place, they will have job security and advancement. However, I have participated in many talent talks/promotion discussions and found that leaders are often rejected for new roles because there is no one to take their place. If there are two candidates for promotion, the candidate who has prepared a successor to easily take her place is greatly preferred over a candidate whose area would be placed in turmoil if he left.

In my organizations, I have required my leaders to identify at least one and preferably two people who can take their place. This ensured solid bench strength and ongoing mentorship. We could readily absorb turnover created by promotions. My areas were known as a great "hunting ground" for talent. In a virtuous cycle, we attracted the best people who were seeking advancement, trained them, required them to train their successor, and then promoted them. As they were promoted and their successor took their place, other top talent came in behind and filled that slot. We consistently had the best performers and most productive teams.

As a leader, you will be judged by the continuing success of your operation after you leave. Will you leave your team in good hands?

From both a personal and organizational standpoint, selecting and training successors leads to greater opportunities, compensation and returns.

Action Points
• Can you name at least one, and preferably two people who you are training to be your successor?
• If you lead others, can your people do the same?
• Is your team known as a great hunting ground for talent?
• Will your team thrive or collapse when you leave?

Payoff
More advancement opportunities, greater success, a network of incredible leaders and friends

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