Crisis or Small Giants, Succession is Inevitable

Leadership succession is a reality no organization can avoid. Even when an organization has a career leader, or a founding leader, the laws of nature dictate that eventually there will be a change of leadership. Organizations who engage in succession planning place themselves in a position to stabilize the longevity of key personnel in hopes of ensuring continued effective performance through intentional replacement of key people over time (Rothwell, 2010). Many organizations do not develop succession plans, and there are a variety of reasons for this.

In his book Small Giants, Bo Burlingham points to organizations that are led by founders who have become the apex of the organization. Some of these ‘small giant’ organizations do not have the option for succession planning because as long as the founding leader is involved, the organization as a whole can not imagine a reality without the founder.

Another reason organizations do not have a succession plan is because they don’t anticipate, or understand, the probability of an unexpected change of leadership whether it be through another organization poaching their leader, or crisis. For leaders who desire to be transformational, caring for followers and providing a succession plan is a way of taking care of them over their own personal concerns (Bass, 1985). Crisis is often a common impetus for change and increasing awareness of crisis can bring an organization to the point of making a succession plan out of a need to survive (Rothwell, 2010). Facing the possibility of crisis, an organization may be compelled to look past barriers and hindrances that hold it back from succession planning.



Bird, W. (2015). Succession Readiness Study: Landscape of Large Church Pastors (pp. pp. 1–6). Dallas, TX: Leadership Network.

Burlingham, B. (2005). Small giants: companies that choose to be great instead of big. New York: Portfolio.

Rothwell, W. J. (2005). Effective Succession Planning: Ensuring Leadership Continuity and Building Talent from Within (3rd ed.). New York, NY: AMACOM.

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