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Andy Stern
Labor leader

Andy Stern

Andy Stern is president of the two-million member Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the fastest-growing union in North America.

Never Too Short

The tendency of leaders to lose, over time, perspective on their own effectiveness, develop a belief in their impossibility to be replaced, and then fail to make succession plans is all too prevalent in organizations.

So, first, kudos to Anne Mulcahy for showing the way to succeed in leading Xerox's accomplishments under her leadership and thoughtfully planning for the company's success under the next generation.

There are several ways to help leaders make transitions. One is term limits, which have proven rather effective for the toughest job in the world, the American president. Properly designed, with enough time allocated for the leader to reach their full potential, term limits can set a framework for planned transitions that are organizational rather than personal decisions.

Secondly, organizations can set less firm limits and instead create internal guidelines for reviewing a leader's tenure, not simply regarding annual performance, but also looking at the broader picture, just as judges are periodically put up for re-election.

Three, committees on boards can be charged with regular reviews and reporting on issues of succession so the issue does not become personal, but rather a regular board responsibility for oversight.

And finally determining roles for leaders after they leave that don't interfere with the successor's role but don't end a career "cold turkey" can offer a softer landing with less personal angst for all the parties.

It is rare to hear people say that a leader's tenure was too short. Too often the discussion of succession is seen as disloyal or conspiratorial. Let's place it in the sunshine as part of our leadership culture and watch better succession bloom.

By Andy Stern

 |  May 26, 2009; 2:14 PM ET
Category:  Succession Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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