The cold hard reality of being a leader is we all have either a physical or organizational shelf-life. This realization, no matter how difficult or painful to grasp, need not be a fatalistic view of your future, but instead the inspiration behind the desire to find the next-generation leader, capable and prepared to spring-board to organizational success from your mentorship and guiding hand. To most, there is natural trepidation that comes with the thought of giving up the reigns of an organization, especially one created from one’s own blood sweat and tears and founded by a personal steadfast vision. So the transitional process comes with some basic questions such as; what should this new leader look like, act like, how do they interact with others and most importantly, will he/she continue to build on the success and solidify your organizational vision. But before getting too far down this leadership selection path…it is vitally important to point out, if you think your replacement should look like the person in the mirror, you are no longer looking for a replacement…you are looking for you–you in another body…a clone…go look someplace else.
The genetic, chemical, neurological and every other..ogical facet of your being that weaves together to create the leader that is you, cannot…repeat cannot…be replicated. Sure, we can chase down the irrelevant scientific rabbit trail of cloning technology, but at the end of the day, all the aforementioned meta and micro physical attributes combine in phenomenally complex ways to create you…the leader…the unique, successful and talented leader that is you. Some leaders (if we want to label them as such) are just confident enough to think that more of themselves will mean more success for the team and for the organization…so they embark on a quest to replicate their leadership by finding an individual with the perceived physical, mental or duplicative leadership traits without truly understanding the divine intervention that has put all of the pieces together to make us uniquely us. So in the end, the ill-fated crusade leads to one result…plastic.
Before you charge the gates to have me committed…think about it, no really, take the time to think about it. The concept of taking the human machine with all of it’s beautifully complex attributes and finding just the right combination to replicate the decisions you make, your ability to motivate your team to heights beyond their own expectations and to provide the insight and vision to lead your organization to success, equates to a problem much greater in complexity than simply following a decision matrix or the steps of a recipe. Thus the plastic reference. When trying to create the 1950‘s wonder-food margarine, no matter how carefully you choose your utensils, measure and blend the ingredients, take the time and care to put everything together as you think it should be–if one ingredient was not mixed correctly or in the wrong order, or blended incorrectly, you don’t get margarine, you get…yep…plastic*
So what is to be gained by participating in my schizophrenic mental exercise? Understanding. Understanding that when the organizational deep blues and purples foreshadowing the twilight of your leadership career are upon you, it is time to seek out the individual that has the wonderful blend of complex physical, emotional, intellectual, interpersonal traits coupled with forward vision that has the potential to be what the organization needs, not specifically what you need that person to be to the organization. The person who has the gleam in their eye, not because of the reflection from your office view…because they clearly see a path forward for the organization which raises their pulse, keeps them awake at night thinking about a future bounded only by their imagination and not confined by your lanes. A person who has most likely respectfully “locked horns” with you on previous occasions because they see the world slightly differently than you do. Don’t look to the functional expert who has the ability to produce in an pinch, or meet an impossible deadline…look to the person who guides challenges effortlessly to successful conclusion by synchronizing the efforts of disparate groups and loners. The individual who shoulders the stress and pressure so the members of the team can produce uninhibited by the strain of deadlines and burden of heavy oversight. Look to your replacement to run with your team, pushing those at a slower pace and harnessing those moving at a faster pace yet all the while ensuring everyone has the goal of crossing the finish line at the same time…to celebrate, not the re-creation of you, but celebrate the re invigoration of the organization at the hands of someone you helped, someone you mentored…your replacement, not your clone.
*The exact chemical composition which could create a plastic type substance instead of margarine is not well defined and in the context of this article is used for illustrative purposes only.