[Cross-posted to the Relationship Economics blog]
When I receive Success Magazine in the mail each month, I usually pick it up with a balance of pride and humility. The magazine, blatantly named after an aspiration known since the beginning of time, represents a call to action before you ever open its pages. It takes more than a subscription to achieve success after all, so I take a keen interest in the articles focused on leadership – a true indicator of success.
This month’s issue of Success (April 2012) features John C. Maxwell’s article, “The Fifth Level of Leadership.” The article highlights the importance of leaders preparing others for future leadership roles. Maxwell states that leaders who reach this Pinnacle level of leadership go through three distinct phases: learn, earn, and return. As demonstrated in this Bloomberg Businessweek article, I would submit most organizations fall short of reaching this level of leadership, losing their way as a result of the rarity of big staff changes, a predilection for looking to the past, and managing in an era of CYA.
This “fifth level of leadership” brings to mind a poem by Marc Smith, “Pull the Next One Up.”
When you get to the top of the mountain
Pull the next one up.
Then there'll be two of you
Roped together at the waist
Tired and proud, knowing the mountain,
Knowing the human force it took
To bring both of you there.
-Marc Kelly Smith
Organization leaders can embrace succession planning by keeping the following three things in mind.
1. Make room at the top – Where can you develop and place people you mentor and develop internally? Do they have a place to go when they grow within your organization? If you don’t make the room for new roles or initiatives, you will eventually lose the talent in your organization as leaders move on to places they can grow.
2. Develop people so they can succeed without you – Create your legacy through those in which you invest your leadership equity. Set aside time each week to develop the leaders around you who will ultimately succeed you. Plan your legacy.
3. Stay grounded – Remain teachable and open to continuous learning opportunities around you. Commit to challenging yourself and learn something new every day. Look for people around you from whom you might be able to learn new lessons or skills.
To achieve true success, you must do more than pay lip service to mentorship and succession planning. Your work life will be filled with stories of personal victories and accolades. But the leaders you develop along the way will determine how successful your efforts really are.