Leadership For Change I: Succession Planning

By John Etim Bassey
By John Etim Bassey
I have spent a lot of time in my adult life studying leaders, leadership and trying to understand why some leaders fail and others succeed. Although every one of us has leadership qualities, it is important to note that not all leaders succeed and success is not measured by what you have acquired in your journey here on earth but true leadership success is measured by how many leaders you have helped produce. I have also learnt many things from many mentors but I want to share two most important principles on leadership.

One of my mentors once told me was that;
1) He will be a failure if after he leaves the scene, his organization crumbles. He said to me that successful leadership is identified by successful succession and your successor must be better than you and do more than you did.

2) The second important lesson I learnt from another mentor was couched in a Pidgin English phrase. It goes thus… “Lion no dey born goat“. That simply means that a mediocre leader will raise mediocre followers and an excellent leader will raise excellent followers.

If there is anything our business and political leaders in Cross River State need to learn here is that great vision always outlast the visioner and great vision transcends generations. That is the only way to keep organizations going for hundreds of years like you find in Europe and other developed countries.

Indeed institutions there are not built around men but around systems that would outlive men. They place a lot of emphasis on creating a structure and operating system that is self-controlled and a lot of times, self-upgrades. Some have erroneously thought that the white man is disciplined but that is not the case and far from the truth. The truth is, he has no choice. The system is such that you can’t change or adjust it and if you try to break it, it comes with dire consequences. That is why it always seems like the white man keeps getting better and better. It is simply because the system forces him to get better.

For this to happen here in Nigeria and in Cross River State, we must start to do the two key principles I mentioned earlier. We should start by having a deliberate plan to raise worthy and credible successors. Knowledge and wisdom evolves with each generation and so change might scarcely come if the older generation does not deliberately deliver the next generation of leaders who would and can do better than them. The idea of seeing the next generation as get rich tools is not only detrimental to the youth themselves, it is damaging to the older folks as well. Imagine you are a leader and 50 years. In 20-30 years you would be retired aged and elderly. The quality of investment you put in to the youth now will determine the quality of care you would get from them when you are old. So the time to invest and empower the youth is now.

This isn’t just about empowering those who follow you, it is actively seeking out those who have shown desire to improve themselves and have evolved with the times. There is no point giving the reigns of leadership of your organization to a son or follower whose skill set is the same as yours or who has no clue about modern leadership trends that can grow business or deliver governance to the people. That follower would make a huge mess of any enterprise, worse than his or her predecessor.

Let us become deliberate in grooming our future doctors, architects, farmers, teachers, public officials, governors etc. We cannot continue to encourage mediocrity but expect excellence. Our leaders should set the bar, high enough for people to aspire and dream attainable dreams that guarantee a positive forward thrust. We must be deliberate in picking who succeeds who, where and how. Our society will only become better if we are deliberate in building the right kind of successors, otherwise we will continue to make all the mistakes that continue to make our progress stunted..

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