Humility in Succession Planning

One of the greatest obstacles of succession planning in the church seems to be the lack of genuine humility among those who lead church organizations.  This deficit in humility becomes an insurmountable roadblock to the idea of succession planning within ministerial ranks.

In order for an organization to place a succession plan in place, it is vital for the leader to possess the humility to accept a successor that can learn alongside the leader.  Unfortunately, church culture has a tendency to change slower than the culture it serves, and it is no different in the area of leadership. In many areas of church leadership, there remains a subscription to the “great man” theory identifying innate qualities within a leader. (Northouse,2013, Kindle Location 712)  Current research suggests leaders (and organizations) should move beyond this perspective, and leaders should show more humanness by being open with limitations. (Owens 2012, p. 789)  This openness nurtures a humble attitude and provides opportunity for successors to be properly trained and developed under the current leader.

In order for a leader to grow in humility a leader must learn to exhibit self-awareness, openness to new ideas, and possess the tendency to look past oneself. (Morris, 2005)  A leader who is humble has an orientation toward others more than oneself (Nielsen, 2010), which makes it possible for a leader to accept a successor’s development as vital to the growth of the organization rather than a threat to the leader’s influence.  With such a perspective, fueled by a humble, servant attitude, the opportunity to identify a quality successor and develop an effective plan of succession become possible.  The model of leadership proposed by Jesus in Mark 10:42-45 would call the leaders of his people to exemplify humility, to “serve and not be served”. (Crossway Bibles, 2007)

Crossway Bibles. (2007). ESV: study Bible: English standard version (ESV text ed.). Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles.
Morris, J. A., Brotheridge, C. M., & Urbanski, J. C. (2005). Bringing humility to leadership: Antecedents and consequences of leader humility. Human Relations, 58(10), 1323–1350.
Nielsen, R., Marrone, J. A., & Slay, H. S. (2010). A New Look at Humility: Exploring the Humility Concept and Its Role in Socialized Charismatic Leadership. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 17(1), 33–43.
Northouse, P. G. (2013). Leadership: theory and practice (6th ed.). Thousand Oaks: SAGE.
Owens, B. P., & Hekman, D. R. (2012). Modeling How to Grow: An Inductive Examination of Humble Leader Behaviors, Contingencies, and Outcomes. Academy of Management Journal, 55(4), 787–818.

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