Nearly 20 years ago, I made a decision.  I chose to create a leadership succession plan for the organization I founded. Very close to committing myself to follow Jesus, marrying my wife and starting Cape Christian, this decision is one of my very best!  I recently passed the 14-year mark since I implemented that succession plan. Here are some reflections.

Intentional Legacy-Leaving is Rewarding – Tom Mullins, author of Passing the Leadership Baton wrote, “A transition will be one of the greatest tests of your leadership, but it will also serve as one of the greatest rewards and testimonies of your legacy.”  That is truth.  Real. Truth.  There have been a few tests along the path.  But so many more rewards than tests.

Level-Five Leadership is the Pinnacle – Jim Collins, John Maxwell and others speak and write about the pyramid of leadership that peaks at level 5 where you serve others, empower those under you, give away leadership, hand credit to the team, take responsibility for failures and demonstrate deep humility. I’ve diligently pursued the quest to climb to the top.  Planning and executing a succession plan has been so fulfilling and fruitful because the organization I founded has excelled in ways I had only dreamed of.  Level 5 leadership is worth chasing.

Long-Term Success is Superior to Short-Term Wins – Twenty years into starting and leading a church, I dreamed of building an organization that would outlive me.  I dreamed of a church that would go faster and further after I was out of the driver’s seat than when I was in it. Now, 14 years and three successors later, I can attest to the fact that those first two decades of many small wins have been far surpassed by the long-term success of an organization that is now ready for the long-haul.  

The Mission is Bigger Than Me – I said and meant it early in my leadership journey.  But it’s different to fully grasp it.  To start something and lead something that is much bigger than me and won’t end with me brings such a sense of contentment and significance to me.  There’s nothing more humbling and fulfilling.

Maximizing Your Impact Means Minimizing Your Ego – The greater you hope your impact to be, the more you will have to fight against your ego.  Those two are mutually exclusive. You can have great impact and a great ego.  But I would contend, your impact will soar upward in almost direct proportion to your ego going downward.  Humility is the doorway to maximum impact.

It’s Harder Than It Looks – So many people have told me, “I couldn’t do what you’ve done.  I’m just not wired that way” when they’ve heard our succession story.  Is it easy?  No.  Is it possible?  Yes.  There is a bigger vision and there are daily choices to make.  In spite of the way I’m wired, I can choose to be rewired by the Holy Spirit and have the same mindset as Jesus (see Philippians 2:5-8).  I can choose to humble myself.  I can choose to be a servant.  I can choose to not be offended if I’m not honored in the way I would prefer.  I can choose to kneel and wash someone one else’s feet as Jesus did (John 13).  I can choose to leave a legacy.  

My Fruit Tastes Better on the Trees of Others – I have always loved Bob Buford’s desire to have his “fruit to grow on other people’s trees.”  Seeing the results of leadership development and the establishment of a culture of an intentional mission and purpose doesn’t just look nice on the trees of others, it even tastes better.  I especially love the fruit of what I’ve planted when I see it coming off the trees of my successors and bringing nourishment and joy to thousands.  That is even more satisfying than when they used to feast on what I produced.   

Forward-thinking legacy-leaving leaders plan for both their future and for the future of the business, non-profit or church they lead.  

QUESTION: Which one of the 7 do you find the hardest and which one do you find the easiest? (Leave a comment.)

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