Six Biblical Tips on Succession Plan 

Many people wouldn’t think of the Bible as a source of business or organizational leadership advice, but it has a lot to say about succession planning. There are plenty of biblical tips that can help any leader transition smoothly to the next phase in their leadership. Here are a few essential pointers from two biblical texts that you can use to create your succession plan.

Tip 1: Succession Plan is a Divine Mandate

One of the lessons of 1 Kings 19:16-21—where God asked Elijah to anoint Elisha as a successor—is a divine command for a succession plan. Thus, a succession plan is God’s will. 

Any leader worth their salt knows that having a concrete succession plan is key to organizational success. Without one, failure is inevitable. 

It is more so if the organization is faith-based. You are not leading well if you aren’t thinking seriously about this leadership responsibility of planning for who replaces you and how your organization lives beyond you. It’s stewardship 101. 

Tip 2: Succession Plan is Vital to Organizational Success 

Leadership or organizational success is measured over time. Therefore, a succession plan is vital to it. Leadership success is measured on its ability to maintain a consistent track record over time and have the right personnel for the right roles. A succession plan is, therefore, an essential component of organizational success. By having a succession plan in place, organizations ensure they have a detailed roadmap for continued success, even in the event of key personnel changes.

Tip 3: Know the Three Kinds of Candidates

Though a succession plan is crucial to the success of any business, must any person be chosen as a successor?

The answer is no. There are many factors to consider when choosing a successor. First, prioritize prerequisite competencies and skills. Friendships and familial relationships should be at the bottom of the list.

Jesus provides an excellent example. Luke 9:57-62 is a reference and a context. The text presents three candidates. Some are those who are willing and passionate, but might not be ready to take on the sacrifices and risks involved. The next are those who are qualified; however, previous commitments and relationships constitute a conflict that might impede their commitment to lead. Finally are those who are passionate though they have a past that shouldn’t hold them back. Unfortunately, it does. 

This Biblical example supports what is common in leadership studies. The right candidate for succession should have the prerequisite competencies and skills to succeed. Above all, there is another vital criterion—passion for the mission. 

Tip 4: Competence and Skills Aren’t Enough. Passion for the Mission is Necessary

Matching competencies and skills with a passion for the mission is essential for a successful succession plan. The most important factor is whether or not the person is willing and able to take on the responsibility. Their love for the mission and values of the organization are ways you might discern if they are passionate. Where skills fail—as they often do—the passionate successor pulls through. Therefore, choose people who are competent and passionate. 

Tip 5: Communicate the Standards

Jesus did not leave things hanging for those he chose to carry on his mission. A biblical inspired leadership shouldn’t. Communicate your succession plan standards so candidates will know what are the preliminary expectations. It requires some mentorship. Show the future leader how to catch the big fish for the organization. Never be afraid of your successors. Do not see competent and skilled candidates as threats. You are an excellent leader if they succeeded Their success after you is a seal of your excellent leadership. 

Tip 6: Prioritize a Qualified Candidate that is Open to Learn

Finally, the right candidates should be able to show they are committed to continued learning and development. Biblical Text of Luke 9:57-62 hints at this where Jesus required all candidates to follow him—learn from him and evolve by grace. Constant changes are a normal phenomenon these days. Equip for what Ronald Heifetz—a Harvard Kennedy School professor—called adaptive leadership.Thus, competence, skills, and passion are necessary. However, do not take lightly the learning trajectory. 

Take succession planning seriously. As you begin to put in place your own succession plan, remember that it is a divine mandate and vital for organizational success. Be sure to prayerfully consider who will carry on the mission of your organization long after you are gone. Don’t forget that competence and skills are important, but so is a passion and love for the mission. With these principles in mind, you can be confident that you are leaving your organization in good hands.

What tips would you add to this list?

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Fr. Maurice Emelu

The Reverend Dr. Maurice Emelu is the Chair of a number of non-profit boards and a professor of digital media and communication at John Carroll University, United States. His research and practices focus on digital storytelling and design, media aesthetics and theo-aesthetics. Dr. Emelu lives where digital media technology meets culture, communication, philosophy, theology and society. He is the founder of Gratia Vobis Ministries, Inc.

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