by Michael Holland    
The departure of a high level leader from an organization creates a vacuum of leadership. In rare circumstances a company actually has an up-to-date and implementable succession plan. But for most companies, the succession plan notebook sits right next to the dust covered copy of the strategic plan on the middle shelf of the tall bookcase. So, basically, there are two options to pursue:

    1. Safe but Short Sighted – Assign the departing leader’s responsibilities to a combination of peers and the boss or a single peer or subordinates within the business function.
    2. Investing in the Future – Move a high performing, lower ranking leader from a different business function into the role for an interim assignment.

The radical approach of option #2 appears on the surface as far too risky and disruptive to the organization. The interim leader will be limited in functional knowledge, will be temporarily leading peers, will leave a huge hole in his/her home department and will need support and mentoring to be successful. But the disruption might well be exactly what the organization needs to create collisions of talented people that inspire/encourage updated approaches which will:

  • Spark innovation.
  • Realign the energy of relationships.
  • Challenge staid productivity.
  • Build leadership wisdom with real job experience.

Let your mind wonder for a moment on the following interim assignments.

  • An IT leader to a Human Resources role
  • A Finance leader to Sales
  • A Human Resources leader to Manufacturing or IT
  • A Customer Services leader to Finance
  • A Manufacturing Foreman/Leader to Customer Service

Stretching the growth of your internal leaders by moving a high potential to the interim role and increasing the roles of those the high potential leaves in leadership behind her/him increases the leadership capacity within the organization. And a depth of leadership capacity is a defining success factor for teams, organizations and companies.

Have the courage to invest in and grow your leaders to reap the long term rewards of broad and deep leadership capacity.

Coaching Thoughts – For You and Your Peers

  • What do you think of this interim assignment idea? Can you see it working for (and benefitting) your organization? Remember, it takes courage.
  • What do you think this statement means: “…a depth of leadership capacity is a defining success factor for teams, organizations, and companies.”? Do you agree with it?