Tag Archive for leadership development

3 Tips for Growing Your Own Replacement

I have always made it a habit to be intentional about teaching my assistants. I am a firm believer that part of my responsibility as a leader is to develop those who will be leading next. This requires me to spend time showing, teaching, and explaining, helping them to understand what I do and why I do it. When I do this, they become better leaders and become prepared to do what I do. If they take this experience and move on to another organization, then I have indirectly had an influence that is greater than my own organization. But sometimes, this has prepared them to step up into a greater leadership role within our own organization, especially when my path has moved me on to someplace else.

You see, although it is not a direct correlation, one of the marks of effective leadership is often seen in what happens after that leader is gone, in whether or not the organization continues to move forward. It’s not a direct correlation because people still have choices in the process, and because old habits can easily return, and so it may not necessarily be a direct reflection on the leader if direction changes after his or her departure. However, you can have a greater certainty of lasting impact if you do one thing – grow your replacements.

What typically happens when a leader leaves, regardless of the reason, as that a search committee, board of directors, president, owner, or some other designated party undertakes a search for the replacement. A job description is prepared or revised, the position is posted, and résumés are examined. After a lengthy (and hopefully thorough) process, a candidate is chosen and an offer is given. When the newly chosen leader arrives, there will be a time of transition while he or she learns the culture and the organization, then the new leader’s vision begins to be put in place. If he (or she) is a good leader, he will continue to move the organization forward in positive ways. But if the committee made a poor choice, or if the leader doesn’t connect with the followers, the organization could be in for a rough road.

But there can be a greater chance of continued positive direction if you already have a certainty about the next leader’s capability, if he has been intentionally developed under the guidance of the previous leader. If this can happen, then the future leader will have already had the opportunity to grow, learn, emulate, and gain experience. In this way, he becomes a known entity, prepared to step in and take over with much less of a transition. And in order to successfully grow your replacement, there are three things that you need to do.

1. The first thing you have to do is to “let them see.” By this, I mean that you need to give plenty of opportunity for your potential replacements to see your example. Of course, this also implies proximity – they need to be able to spend time in your presence, so that they can observe you in action from close range, and so that they can ask questions. This also provides you with the platform to discuss, teach, and explain, helping them to understand your reasoning, motives, and methods. It becomes a focused form of mentoring, with individualized training and development. Keep in mind, though, that the point is not to create a duplicate of yourself, but rather, to give them the opportunity to learn from your example and to give you the opportunity to shape their leadership.

2. The second thing you have to do is to “let them try.” This means that they need to do more than just observe; they need to roll up their sleeves and participate. This happens when you provide them with opportunities to gain experience by leading a project, initiating a program, managing a task, or taking other responsibilities. When you allow this to take place, you can then provide feedback and use those experiences as more opportunities to learn. You can assess and critique their performance, but they also get to learn from their own performance, both their successes and their failures (which leads to the third tool that you get to use).

3. The third thing you have to do is to “let them fail.” By letting them see your example, they learn from your experience, but by letting them try and letting them fail, they learn from their own experience. It is likely that you have already learned the value of lessons and growth that emerge from failures, mistakes, and difficulties, and the same process of growth is important for your replacements. But in order for them to learn from their mistakes, it first needs to be safe for them to fail. And you are the one who makes it safe it fail. Provide an environment that allows them learn from the mistakes they make, so that they can change and grow. And once again, take these opportunities to teach, intentionally developing their leadership out of those experiences.

Ultimately, part of your effectiveness as a leader is seen in how you develop others. Therefore, in your organization, you need to purposefully identify those who could become your future replacement and do these things – let them see, let them try, and let them fail – in order to develop their leadership. It’s entirely possible that, after you have invested in them, they move on to leadership opportunities elsewhere, but it is also possible that you are preparing your own replacement, someone who understands the organization and has been prepared to lead it well. In either case, your leadership will have had a longer lasting and further reaching impact, and you will have a greater certainty of the long-term health of your organization. Very simply, you will be more effective if you grow your own replacements.

Are You Training Your Replacement?

When an effective leader steps down from any organization or ministry, it is always a challenge to replace that leader. Like me, you may have witnessed this firsthand when your beloved pastor at your church retired or moved on to another ministry, or when your CEO, superintendent, or supervisor left your organization. And then everyone entered into a period of anxiety, wondering what would happen next. Unless . . . someone had been appropriately prepared to step into the now-vacant leadership role.

The relationship between Moses and Joshua provides an illustration of this concept in action. We are first introduced to Joshua in Exodus 17, when the Israelites are preparing to go to battle against the Amalekites. The description of the story may be familiar to you – this is the battle in which Moses stood on a hill overlooking the scene of the conflict, holding his hands in the air. As long as his hands were raised, the Israelites were winning, but if his hands dropped, the Israelites would begin to lose ground. Eventually, Aaron and Hur (who were with Moses), arranged a place for Moses to sit, and these two stood on either side of Moses, helping him to keep his hands held up. In this way, Joshua was able to lead his army to victory.

But then an interesting statement follows this story, in Exodus 17:14, when the Lord said to Moses, “Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven.” This statement is interesting because it begs the question of why it was so important that Joshua hear and remember the details of the source of the victory. At this point, we are not given any indication of why this matters so much, but the picture begins to be filled in a little later in their journey through the wilderness.

When the people then arrive at Mt. Sinai, God puts the journey on pause and takes time to provide the law to Moses. It is here that we are finally given an understanding of the nature of Joshua’s relationship to Moses, in Exodus 24:13, which says, “Then Moses set out with Joshua his aide.” Aha! Now it begins to make more sense! Joshua is Moses’ assistant! And then, further clarification comes in Numbers 11:28, which tells us that Joshua had been Moses’ aide since youth. So it seems that Joshua has been by Moses’ side since the journey began, and therefore it becomes understandable that God wanted Joshua to learn from his experiences with Moses.

Now, from the time of the exodus from Egypt until the entry into the Promised Land, I am sure that there was much that Joshua observed, experienced, and learned from Moses’ example and leadership. Several of those learning opportunities are specifically mentioned: the battle against the Amalekites, described in Exodus 17; the giving of the law to Moses, In Exodus 24; Moses’ response to two elders who were prophesying, in Numbers 11; and the task of spying out the land, given to Joshua, Caleb, and ten other men, in Numbers 13. Each of these events provided specific learning experiences for Joshua, and certainly he also learned from the other events that took place during the 40-year journey, but what is the significance of this? It is that Joshua was being prepared to replace Moses, whether he realized it or not.

This eventually became evident when Moses had to face the fact that he would not be leading the people of Israel into the Promised Land. At this point, Moses approached the Lord with his concern, in Numbers 27:15-23 –

Moses said to the Lord, “May the Lord, the God who gives breath to all living things, appoint someone over this community to go out and come in before them, one who will lead them out and bring them in, so the Lord’s people will not be like sheep without a shepherd.” So the Lord said to Moses, “Take Joshua son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit of leadership, and lay your hand on him. Have him stand before Eleazar the priest and the entire assembly and commission him in their presence.  Give him some of your authority so the whole Israelite community will obey him. He is to stand before Eleazar the priest, who will obtain decisions for him by inquiring of the Urim before the Lord. At his command he and the entire community of the Israelites will go out, and at his command they will come in.”  Moses did as the Lord commanded him. He took Joshua and had him stand before Eleazar the priest and the whole assembly. Then he laid his hands on him and commissioned him, as the Lord instructed through Moses.

And then Deuteronomy 3:28 further makes God’s intentions quite clear, when He says, “But commission Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he will lead this people across and will cause them to inherit the land that you will see.” All along the way, for 40 years, Moses had been training his replacement! Joshua had observed Moses’ successes and failures. He had led projects and missions. He witnessed personal moments. And he had been prepared to take over the leadership.

But then, a curious thing unfolds toward the end of his life. Joshua was a tremendous leader for the nation of Israel, and Scripture makes it clear that he had the spirit of leadership (Numbers 27) and the spirit of wisdom (Deuteronomy34:9), and that the people willingly followed his leadership. Yet, for all that he learned from Moses, it appeared that the one thing he did not do was train his replacement! At the end of his life and leadership, Scripture records (in Joshua 24:31 and again in Judges 2:7) that the people served the Lord throughout Joshua’s lifetime; but then Judges 2:10 makes this statement: “After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel.” It seems that Joshua had not invested in developing someone to succeed him and to continue to lead the people in serving the Lord, and the nation paid the price.

This story offers great application for any leader, reminding us of the importance of training our replacements and developing new leaders, but what a lesson for Christian leaders! Regardless of the work to which you have been called, you must be developing others to carry on after you, investing in the spiritual growth and discipleship of the next generation of leaders who will impact the world for Christ. They need to be able to observe your example and learn from your experience. They need to have the benefit of a personal relationship with you. Ultimately, if you are not doing this, your leadership will end with you. So, are you training your replacement? More pointedly, are you training your spiritual replacement? For effective Christian leadership, you must!