Success in Succession

Today is the big day… Apple’s long awaited next generation iPhone event is finally here and geeks around the country are taking the protective cases off their old iPhone 3GS and placing them right on the edge of the kitchen countertop… or getting ready to forget to check the pockets of their jeans before their iPhone 4 gets washed.

One of the reasons today’s event is so anticipated is that a complete redesign of the iPhone is expected, from a larger screen, to thinner body, as well as an iOS overhaul and the new apps that will inevitably follow. We cannot wait to see how “everything changes” – again.

Another reason that today’s event is anticipated is that is the first new iPhone release announcement since founder and former CEO Steve Jobs’ death last October. Many in the technology community are wondering as much about the vision of the company as they are the version of the phone being released today.

In most personality-led organizations, the regularly visible, passionate, DNA carrying leader sets the tone for the vision of the organization. And every organization reaches those moments, whether by intent or accident, in which the primary leader retires, resigns or, in tragic cases, passes away suddenly. In every instance, a vision that is not clear, shared or transferred leaves with the leader.

While Apple had some time to internally prepare for Steve Jobs’ resignation on August 24, 2011, and nobody was surprised given his extended battle with pancreatic cancer, many transitions in the church world come with far less notice and no opportunity to strategize at all.

Success after the visible leader leaves is found in how that leader develops, clarifies and hands-off these 5 irreducible questions of clarity in any organization:

  • What are we here to do? 
  • Why are we doing it?
  • How will we do it? 
  • When are we successful? 
  • Where are we going?

Vision, then becomes the biggest necessity to succession planning. Surviving, and even thriving is ensured not by being able to open the doors the next Sunday… that just takes a key. The real key to success in succession is found in the church body having shared ownership of why the doors are open in the first place. Great church leaders use their identity to buttress the church identity in Christ, they do not let their identity become the church identity apart from Christ. Here is a great recap of Bill Hybels’ thoughts on succession planning from this year’s Global Leadership Summit.

Whether you planted last Sunday and have been a pastor for 4 days or you have been faithfully serving as pastor for 40 years, the question is this: Are you developing a vision beyond yourself, that will keep the organization on track beyond your leadership tenure?

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Filed under Church Life, Church Planting, MultiSite Church

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