Succession Planning Is NOT Leadership Development (But It Is One Result)

Leaders sometimes equate succession planning with leadership development and even speak of them interchangeably. They are both important, but they are not the same.

Don’t confuse succession with leadership development. Succession is not leadership development, but it is one result of leadership development. If leadership development is the root, wise succession planning is one of the fruits. If you focus on leadership development, you will get succession. However, it is possible to focus on succession and miss leadership development. Practically, it is best to think of leadership development as the overarching term and succession planning as underneath the umbrella of leadership development. Two big thoughts on the relationship between leadership development and succession planning:

1. Succession planning REFLECTS the health of your leadership development culture.

If a ministry or organization has a healthy leadership development culture, succession planning is the beautiful result. Not only for senior leadership roles, but for all roles. Leaders are being created. When new opportunities arise or there are open positions, people on the team are considered or pursued for those roles. Where there is no intentional plan or process to develop leaders, there are also typically no conversations or plans for succession.

2. Succession planning can help DIRECT your leadership development culture.

Because succession is a fruit of leadership development, the realization that the fruit of succession is needed can cause people to focus on the root of leadership development. The realization that all roles will someday be filled by someone else should highlight the need for development. The reality that all leaders are interim leaders should increase our desire to develop others. Opportunities will come our way; new leaders will be needed. The world is broken and filled with pain; new leaders will be needed to serve others. The world is broken and leaders will fall; new leaders will be needed. Realizing there will be a need for future leaders can help spur the important thinking to care for and develop the people on the team.

While not the same, they are related. Ram Charan says most leadership initiatives fail because people are trained for current jobs—not future jobs. So, when leadership development trains people for future roles, succession planning gets a win too.

I share more thoughts in the opening episode of this season of The Eric Geiger Leadership Podcast. It is all about succession with the story of my relationship with my predecessor, Kenton Beshore, as the background. You can listen to that episode on your favorite platform by clicking the link here.