I go from powerful corporate leader to a 5-year-old girl within minutes of exiting my car. Some things will never change.
The distance between us does not allow me to get home as often as I'd like though.
My father is our family's patriarch, our family leader. From him, I, along with all my siblings have been instilled with our unwavering family values.
On this particular trip home, I found myself stricken with the sobering reality that my father won't be with me for the rest of my life.
My father presented me with what he said was one of the last of his goals for our family. My father gave me a deed to our family plot. I was humbled, and I was mortified.
It was something he had always wished for our family, for us not to worry about his passing and for us all to be together pressing forward with our family values. This was his plan of succession, to ensure his values would not be left to deviate from his expectation.
After getting past the mortifying feeling of his gesture, it made me think. Why don't more leaders undertake this kind of leadership? His gesture gave us clear direction, and helped us make what could have been an uncomfortable decision in future. It was so practical, pragmatic, smart, and allowed us to continue without being burdened or derailed. The best form of risk management.
LAST MINUTE BUSINESS
So why when it comes to succession planning in the world of business, do so many plans get left to the last minute, without clear and defined plans for the next leader or a clear and distinct plan to take a path created a long time ago?
I am amazed as to the weak effort that goes into the development of succession plans. I observe too often organizations in the public and private sectors which leave the decision of successors or future directives to an "after-the-fact" plan and scramble for what is likely an unqualified or unprepared candidate or goal. I've observed this in government, business, charities and sports teams. What would it take to cultivate a highly qualified, individual to carry on the leadership of the organization who understands the core values that made his or her predecessor so successful?
I suspect our failing in this area may be due to the egos of the elite, a hubris that precludes a leader passing on the baton of leadership at the highest level. How often do we witness a company with tremendous success in all aspects during the leadership of a specific individual be net with disaster when governed by an ill-chosen successor? It is an avoidable tragedy. Organizations should make this a mandatory part of their long-term goals with no exception.
Good predecessors leave behind healthy cultures, values and wisdom. We should humbly try to internalize their goals, understand their values and execute as though we were them. It is our duty to develop the leaders of tomorrow in order to responsibly sustain the future organization, our future society and our families. I have never been so moved by such a simple act as the one my father performed. It will not be lost on me.
JOANNA MAKOMASKI, the former risk manager for an energy delivery company, is a specialist in innovative enterprise risk management methods and implementation techniques with V3 Advisory Group.
November 1, 2010
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