1. Loyalty, dependability and faithfulness – who is it that has stuck with you all the way through the thick and thin moments? The people’s favorite may not necessarily have been the one who was loyal to the vision you carry. People may like a certain successor due to the nice gestures he/she may have shown lately in the run up to silent succession battles. It remains important to go towards the person who has been loyal and faithful, not seeking his own ambitions and fame but the common good and the organization; someone faithful to the vision.
2. Articulate visionary – It would be a total waste to just look at loyalty and faithfulness and ignore the fact that the successor has to show signs of vision and the ability to maintain or develop all the ongoing legacy points. Loyalty alone without vision will result in stagnation of the vision. In not having a vision, the loyal leader may end up succumbing to every wishful suggestion of followers. Does your successor even have a person vision and direction? Where does he/she seem to be going for the next ten years? If one does not have an idea how to cast vision, how to plan ahead and how to project, they will be a laughing stock awaiting demotion by public demand in no time.
3. Responsible follower – It is easier to choose a successor from those that have been your subordinates or followers for a while. However the person has to show a high level of responsibility. If they cannot look after their own family, they have no right to be aspirants for higher office. Leader is spelt as r.e.s.p.o.n.s.i.b.i.l.i.t.y. Anything outside responsible is left out to those that take chances or wishful thinkers. In what way has the follower shown responsibility? What task has he/she carried where a high level of responsibility was assumed and carried to the end? Test your leaders, give them a small task and measure their proficiency on those small things before you can place them at the pinnacle of leadership. If their ego does not permit them to handle small tasks, you know they are in leadership just to fulfill their own agenda and build their ego.
4. Flexible Individual who is willing to learn – Your successor is coming to a position that sees the organization from the pinnacle. They are no longer going to just focus on Human Resources for example; they now need to know about Production Processes, they now need an element of Finance knowledge etc. If you pick someone with a rigid mindset which says “we have always done it this way”, the organization will remain behind its neighbors. Until a leader has a level of discomfort over the way things are, they will not have the energy to even think outside their present comfort. Every development will not be seen as a necessity but simply a “nice to have”. The leader must not have the “I know it all” syndrome. Even an encyclopedia does not pride itself as the only fountain of knowledge. It relies on people updating it otherwise it becomes an obsolete baggage occupy space on the shelf. Can the successor do other tasks outside the degree they got from college? Test them and you will observe the trends and traits.
5. Own track record of integrity – Integrity is a pivotal element of people taking over the responsibility of a higher magnitude. If the person succumbed to greed while looking after a very tiny budget, what more when they have access to every budget with all the power vested in them? They will run amok and destroy the walls of your legacy in no time. Integrity is not measured only at the high levels but even with such seemingly small issues such as coming to work on time, honoring your word when you commit to doing something, paying those you owe on time and not wait for debt collection processes. Integrity should be lifestyle of every leader. People must be able to trust all that you say without question. They must be able to know that you are a person of your word. You swear to your own hurt. Integrity is vowing that even if it costs you your comfort, you will still do it because you promised. People who easily forget what they promised their followers or subordinates are talkers who should remain where they are. If you choose a “talking” successor, your leadership qualities will be questioned. Your integrity will be re-examined.
6. Team player and good coach – A leader is only effective to the degree that he can get his/her team to achieve the organizational goals. If your potential successor prefers to live like an island, look elsewhere. If the person has no desire to help others to grow through coaching and mentorship then you know that when they assume office, the legacy ends with them. Team dynamics is an element that is key to the success of an organization. You can have as many teams as you like but the team leaders must realize that in the multiplicity of teams, there is not team which is less important. Each team must ensure they advance the interest and deliverables of other teams as long as it is in line with the common good of the company. Example: If the Safety Health and Environment Manager is implementing a new health policy, he may observe that his efforts will be better placed if he also advanced the issue of staff housing. Both departments are crucial for the well being of the populace. If he/she focuses on treating all people from malaria while ignoring the fact that people are living in shanty houses then his/her efforts are not only selfish but futile.
7. Proven track record of performance – If among your successors, they all seem knowledgeable; they all seem like they have integrity and other aspects already discussed then consider the achievements of the individual. Do they have a proven track record where they went beyond the normal expectations and went into the second mile even without an additional incentive? Over the years, how did his/her department perform in terms of goals set against goals achieved? If your subordinate is good at crafting documents and postponing issues because of laziness then you are better off selecting one with a proven, unquestionable track record. Leaders live on the second mile. They are not content with merely achieving the goals of the organization but surpassing them totally. Your successor should come from such a pool.
8. Mature and wise – Maturity is not a measure of years but the amount of wisdom a leader can apply to situations and scenarios they face. Maturity comes with acceptance of roles and responsibilities. You may have in your team a 55 year old Manager and a 38 year old Financial Controller. You should never use age as your barometer of maturity, look at the wisdom level and capacity to handle the tasks on hand. With 55 years of experience you will be shocked that the leader simply went through the motions of leadership not getting close to assimilating and internalizing the core of what leadership entails. Older leaders will submit to a young leader as long as they are still treated with the respect and dignity they so much treasure and desire. The biggest plague of leadership is not lack of finances or illiteracy but the absence of wisdom.
9. A passionate leader – Leadership is not passive but active. Leadership requires passion and drive not timidity and laid back attitude. When a leader shows a high degree of passion, they are motivated and eager to work. Their passion and work ethic permeates to teams they lead. Examine amongst your potential successors who is usually driven intrinsically to work rather than those who wait for external pampering to be excited about what they do. Passion displays whether the person is operating within their calling or purpose or they are simply doing what their parents forced them to study. Excitement does not mean the leader is laughing all the time. It means there is enough internal fuel to keep the desire for work going without requiring affirmation and encouragement.
10. An influential person – Choose a successor who has more influence than others. Influence defines one’s level of ability to lead. How many people have benefited from the individual’s existence not just through words of encouragement but through real, tangible acts of charity that benefit others? People can tell your level of influence by how many will mourn you when you die. However one does not need to wait that long for the influence to be felt. Regardless of the size of the company, an influential leader does not wait to be the CEO in order to make a difference in others. They start where they are and the radius keeps enlarging. If you are able to show that you can be influential outside your title then you are a potential candidate for succession. Touch the lives of people positively through your giving of time to counsel, encourage and teach and also through your generosity
Rabison Shumba is a young African entrepreneur who has interests in Information and Communication Technology, Agriculture and Mining. He is also a motivational speaker, trainer and author. http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/rshumba