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Who is Next in Line? Effective Leadership and Succession Planning


One of the determinants of an effective organization is its ability to outlive the founders and remain sustainable for years to come. Sustainability in this regard is the ability to meet present needs and ensure long-term viability. One critical aspect that influences this sustainability is the efficacy of the Institution’s succession plan.

Organizations require effective leadership to steer growth in various aspects. Leadership is an invaluable asset. It is multifaceted and it requires clarity of vision, effective communication, relationship building, robust resource mobilization, transparency, empowerment, delegation and guidance towards success even in the face of challenges.

When an organization’s leader departs, they often leave behind a void that can disrupt the organization’s processes. For organisations to thrive, they need to avoid moments of crisis and lack of leadership. Succession planning is a safety net that ensures business operations remain smooth.

Succession Planning Process

Succession planning refers to the strategic process by which an organization identifies potential leaders and develops them to take over the roles of the incumbent. In governance, succession planning plays a vital role in identifying candidates to fill the shoes of the current leaders in the event of a planned or unplanned departure.

Despite the fact that focus on succession is often associated with top-level executives, succession planning ought to extend to other levels and positions within a company.  The succession planning process is meant to create a talent pipeline of successors that will keep the organization running with little to no interruption when inevitable leadership changes occur.

A succession plan is a comprehensive document that starts with the hiring process and works its way through the ranks and details different leadership positions in the organization. No matter the size of the organization, a succession plan is key to having a smooth transition. Frequently, the process of identifying potential successors for roles within a company involves considering internal candidates. Nevertheless, organisations might also explore the option of external candidates and could even enlist the services of headhunters.

Types of Succession Plans

Succession plans give an organization a fall back plan in the event of departure. There are various types of succession plans that an organization should consider.

  1. Short-term succession plan.

Short term succession plans typically cover roles that might become vacant within the next one to two years. These plans allow organizations to groom and prepare potential successors for specific positions, ensuring a smooth transition when the time comes.

  1. Long-term succession plan.

Long-term succession plans are designed for leadership roles that may become vacant in the next three to five years or more. A long- term succession plan is the process that an organisation will more or less stick to as a standard for key positions. These plans involve identifying high-potential employees and providing them with extensive development opportunities to ready them for more complex responsibilities.

  1. Short-term succession plan.

Short term succession plans typically cover roles that might become vacant within the next one to two years. These plans allow organizations to groom and prepare potential successors for specific positions, ensuring a smooth transition.

  1. Emergency/ Secondary succession plan.

This type of plan focuses on addressing unexpected departures due to sudden events like illness, accidents, or unforeseen circumstances. Emergency succession plans identify interim leaders who can step in immediately to ensure continuity until a permanent replacement is found. Members of the management team may be required take on extra responsibilities or take on all the roles in acting capacity while a replacement is sought. This type of plan may involve more temporary measures but is intended to keep operations running smoothly.

  1. Position-Specific succession plan:

This is focused on specific key roles and prepares potential successors for positions that are critical to the organization’s success. It entails a targeted development approach that aligns with the unique requirements of each role. This plan involves identifying a pool of talented individuals who possess the potential to take on various leadership roles. These individuals are groomed and trained in a versatile manner so they can be deployed in different roles as needed.

Benefits of Succession Planning

  1. Reduced Disruptions: An effective succession plan minimizes disruptions during leadership transitions. The organization continues to operate smoothly, maintaining its momentum and productivity.
  2. Talent Retention: The investment in employee development through succession planning demonstrates the organization’s commitment to its employees’ growth. There is higher job satisfaction as there are define routes to progression and lowers job insecurity. This can enhance employee loyalty and talent retention.
  3. Cost Savings: Hiring externally for key positions can be expensive and time-consuming. Succession planning reduces the need for rushed external hires, which can result in better resource utilization and cost savings.
  4. Maintains Investor Confidence: When key figures in an organization’s leadership and senior management exit, it can create uncertainty among investors. However, a well-developed succession strategy enhances the confidence investors have in the company.
  5. Preservation of Knowledge: When senior leaders leave, they often take valuable institutional knowledge with them. A well-executed succession plan ensures that this knowledge is transferred to the next generation of leaders.
  6. Faster Onboarding: Internal candidates are already familiar with the company culture, processes, and goals. This familiarity leads to quicker and more effective onboarding.
  7. Long-Term Organizational Health: By investing in succession planning, organizations demonstrate their commitment to long-term sustainability and growth. A well-prepared leadership pipeline ensures that the company is equipped to navigate changing market conditions, industry trends, and competitive challenges effectively.


Succession planning is an ongoing process that requires continuous attention and adaptation. By identifying, nurturing, and preparing potential leaders within the organization, businesses can ensure a stable and successful transition of leadership. This strategic approach to leadership development safeguards the future of the organization, allowing it to thrive even in times of change and uncertainty.