I remember when it first hit me. My definition of success was challenged and I needed to rethink it. I had just read the book, The Elephant in the Boardroom: Speaking the Unspoken About Pastoral Transitions” by Carolyn Weese and J. Russell Crabtree. The line that rattled me was, “One way or another, every church will eventually lose its pastor or minister yet few congregations prepare for this dramatic event.” Approaching age 50 at the time, I had not thought seriously about that truth.
My thoughts of success had previously been focused on whether or not the church was healthy, vital, alive, making a difference in the community and growing—spiritually, numerically and financially. I really hadn’t considered what would happen when I retired from the lead pastoral role. In fact, statics convinced me that my major vocational investment had a very slim chance of continuing to thrive and return dividends after I retired. Now I begin to consider a different definition of success.
If I was really a “Level 5” leader like my mentors John Maxwell and Jim Collins had challenged me to become, then “legacy is created only when a person puts his organization into a position to do great things without him.” Maybe I should rethink success. I did. I began to redefine my measurement of success in ministry based on whether the church I had started and was leading was continuing to grow, be healthy, remaining vital and thriving five years after I was out of the lead seat.
The new measurement of success made a difference in my priorities. My top priority became the development of a succession plan. I started by developing an emergency succession plan in case I was suddenly unable to lead the organization. I also started preparing myself for a transition over the next years. I did lots of reading, some soul searching, significant prayer, dialogued with trusted friends and looked at my leadership sweet spot and what I really was most passionate about. I began to envision my new dream role in leadership inside the church and in the community.
Four years ago this week, I made a public leadership transition. Today, I can clearly say it was a success. All of the measurements of health, vitality and growth of the organization are going up and to the right. My own sense of well-being and satisfaction has increased.
This is the launch of my several-part story. A 5-minute version of it can be watched along with many other succession stories at Leadership Network’s free online Succession conference today (March 26, 2013) at this link. You can watch it for free today at 1pm EDT or purchase the right to watch it on your own schedule.
QUESTION: Have you ever raised up a leader to succeed you in an organization? I would love to hear more about it in the Comment section.