Leadership Succession Planning: Best Practices & Principles

What are the best strategies for leadership succession planning in business? How can succession planning keep your business strong long term?

Leadership succession planning involves training employees to take on leadership positions and focusing on the company mission rather than your own personal direction. To lead a business successfully, you need to plan for its long-term success even after you’re gone.

Learn how to successfully plan for leadership changes and prepare your company for longevity.

Continuing a Company Mission Through Leadership Succession Planning

Through successful leadership succession planning, your company can continue to have a positive effect on the community after you stop actively participating in it. By achieving this, you connect the company more firmly to its mission and then disconnect yourself—you make the company an independent entity guided by its mission rather than your personal direction. This lets the company continue improving people’s lives and being successful in the long term, even after you’re no longer involved in its operations.

How to Disconnect From Your Company Effectively

Some business experts agree you must disconnect from your company. However, you must prepare for this transition adequately. Low success rates after a founder leaves often occur if the company’s brand is too strongly tied to this single individual. When the founder leaves, the company struggles to handle the confusion of losing its leader and doesn’t believe that its brand (and, arguably, mission) can continue without them. 

Besides the advice which we cover below, you can improve your company’s odds of survival by encouraging trust and team spirit in the company rather than the founder, both among employees and customers. This redirects people’s confidence from you as founder to the entire company: Everyone believes in the company’s brand and ability to survive, so they continue working hard to maintain its success (or, in the case of customers, buying its products).

Plan For Leadership Changes

Plan how your company will continue its mission after you’re gone. This includes identifying your successors and deciding how the company’s leadership will be structured. It’s important to do this in advance, as unexpected circumstances could force you to leave the company earlier than intended, and your employees will struggle to adapt without a plan in place.

To make this plan, identify the people who best support your company’s mission and prepare them for a leadership role. Encouraging flexibility is also helpful, so if one employee is promoted to lead the company, the others can take over her responsibilities and keep the company running normally throughout the transition.

Further Tips on Succession Planning

Jim Collins and Jerry Porras emphasize the importance of succession planning in Built to Last. In addition to being prepared for leadership, they say new leaders must be committed to continuing the succession plan. As soon as a new leader takes over, they should start evaluating candidates to eventually take over from them

This continuous succession planning creates a “leadership continuity loop,” ensuring that power can smoothly transition from one person to another whenever necessary. In addition, continuous planning would arguably increase flexibility since your employees are already thinking about the future and how they can prepare for it.
After identifying people who best support the company’s mission, how do you prepare them for a leadership role? Business experts suggest
implementing the following strategies:

1. Define potential career paths. When employees know their career options, they’ll be more excited and work harder. Make sure they understand the requirements for each level of promotion and that they have the chance to become a leader.
2. Offer continuous training. Many companies stop training employees after onboarding, but this means employees aren’t learning important leadership skills. They particularly recommend instituting an open-door policy so employees can approach you with questions about leading.
Leadership Succession Planning: Best Practices & Principles

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Becca King

Becca’s love for reading began with mysteries and historical fiction, and it grew into a love for nonfiction history and more. Becca studied journalism as a graduate student at Ohio University while getting their feet wet writing at local newspapers, and now enjoys blogging about all things nonfiction, from science to history to practical advice for daily living.

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