By Steve Adubato, PhD

Every organization—whether it’s a large corporation, a family-run business, or a small mom-and-pop shop—must have a strong plan of succession and a short list of potential leaders ready to step up and take charge when the current boss steps aside or is forced out for health or other reasons.

Yet, we find more and more, even in the most sophisticated and visible companies, no realistic and practical succession plan exists. It’s easy to talk a good game when it comes to planning for who will lead the future of an organization, but actually doing it is a different story. With this in mind, consider the following leadership lessons when it comes to effective succession planning:

-- Remember that CEO succession planning is not a single-person event. When organizations take on succession planning, they often focus on the CEO role and neglect to focus on other positions as well. However, really smart leaders tie succession planning to larger leadership development efforts and recognize how critical it is to identify not only who will succeed the CEO but who the future leaders of the organization working alongside his or her successor will be. The best succession planning involves a constant assembly and reassembly of a leadership puzzle with many pieces.

-- Even when great internal candidates exist, continue to look outside for other prospective candidates. This approach helps to ensure all of the best candidates for the job are considered. Once the succession-planning team has identified the key candidates outside of the organization, the next step is to then compare these candidates with the best players internally, evaluating each candidate on the skills and experience criteria needed to lead the organization forward.

-- Don’t keep succession plans a secret. Be up front. Really confident and secure leaders should have the ability and willingness to talk openly about their succession. It shouldn’t be embarrassing. In fact, when you decide that you will be stepping aside, you should say so. Make it clear how the process will work and who will be involved in the succession planning effort. Conversely, if you don’t do this, then ask yourself, who and what will fill up the vacuum when it comes to information? How about the rumor mill? Efforts to foster transparency will go a long way in combating any perception of a hidden agenda and will, in turn, reassure your people that you are considering their needs as well as the needs of the overall organization.

Succession planning is a complex and complicated process, and it takes a special kind of leader to play an integral and valuable role in his or her succession. Yet, it is doable and the payoff is lasting and significant on many levels.

What specific steps do YOU think are critical for effective succession planning? Write to Steve Adubato at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..