Skillsoft Blog

Throw back Thursday: leadership succession planning

We receive so much valuable content from our customers, partners and
internal subject-matter experts. On Thursdays, we thought it would be fun to do
a “throw back” and bring back an older post that was valuable to our audience.
Today’s throw back is about leadership succession planning.

How prepared are you
for leadership loss?

By Shawn Hunter

AMA Corporate Learning recently surveyed over
1,100 senior managers and executives on the topic of leadership succession
planning and discovered only 14% described their organization as properly
prepared to confront key leadership loss, and over 80% said they were either
“somewhat prepared” or “not at all prepared.” In the case of Apple and Steve
Jobs, confidence appears reasonably high that Tim Cook is
prepared to lead the company through Jobs’ health break. Yet, 14% nationally
reflects a pretty sad confidence level in our leadership pipeline.

I’m reminded of the development culture at U.S. Cellular, which dictates the
both/and equation when it comes to business results. In their culture, a
defining metric of goal success is both achieving the business objective AND
developing people in the process. The goal is considered incomplete if you ink a
deal but the people growth component isn’t there. There is a clear expectation
that business drivers include the people development part. Because people aren’t
assets, they’re well…people.

As Jonas Ridderstrale likes to
say, “If you are doing your job as a leader you shouldn’t be needed.” What he
means is that if you stock the organization with both high-will ecosystems and
high-skill individuals and collaborators, you won’t be needed. The point at
which the leader makes their most valuable contribution is to be the “midwife of
innovation”. The leader acting as innovation midwife cannot possibly provide the
answer or prescribe the insight, since that approach lacks the originality of
the democratic process, and isn’t born from the mind of the contributor. In this
capacity, the innovation midwife plays inquisitor – asking the kinds of honest
probing questions that yield the birth of ideas.

And there’s another role for the innovation midwife – finding the home and
support for the idea. At the same time the innovation midwife is coaxing
powerful new ideas, she also has to be finding those sponsors and champions
within the organization who are willing to nurture, feed and shelter these ideas
so they can become big enough to surprise the world.

To quote Ridderstrale again, the TBUS (Time Between Unexpected Surprises) is
shrinking every day.

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