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7Keys to Successful Succession

7Keys to Successful Succession

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Published by Paul Rattray
Successful Succession is about ensuring that your next leadership transition is as successful as it can be. To do that, a Sacrificial Succession is our recommended solution. Sacrificial Succession is about incumbent sacrificing their leadership for successor success by preparing ready replacements, altruistically handing over leadership mid-tenure and staying on as successor advocate.
Successful Succession is about ensuring that your next leadership transition is as successful as it can be. To do that, a Sacrificial Succession is our recommended solution. Sacrificial Succession is about incumbent sacrificing their leadership for successor success by preparing ready replacements, altruistically handing over leadership mid-tenure and staying on as successor advocate.

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Published by: Paul Rattray on Apr 02, 2013
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02/26/2014

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To summarise the key differences between
sacrificial succession the master key of this book, and
other more self-interested forms of leadership succession,
is to reiterate its focus. First is the emphasis on readying
replacements as successors rather than developing
leaders or managers to fill future leadership positions.
Second is that that to be genuinely successional
incumbents must sacrifice their leadership for the benefit
of successors mid-tenure. As a direct outworking of
these first two successional differences, the third main
difference involves incumbent staying on as replaced
leader to advocate for the next generation of successors.
Successional leadership is about leaving a
sacrificial succession legacy of ready replacements
prepared as successors, leadership sacrificially handed
over for the benefit of successors and advocacy for the
next generation of successors by incumbent as its most
important elements. Though strange and unnatural,
sacrificial succession is logical and possible.
While these three key phases of sacrificial
succession are not commonly practiced in transitions,
glimpses of successional leadership, a precursor to
sacrificial succession, are occasionally observed. Two
transitions worth mentioning, as examples, are those of
Fannie Mae’s David Maxwell to Jim Johnson and F. W. de
Klerk to Nelson Mandela.
In the case of David O. Maxwell, he voluntarily
relinquished his rights to a final retirement payment of
$5.5 million in 1991 stipulated under his contract with
Fannie Mae, a mortgage security provider5. He took this
action to stop continued controversy over his retirement
compensation. Also, he believing that it could harm his
successor Jim Johnson and the millions of Americans
Fannie Mae served. How different Maxwell’s sacrificial
act turned out to be to the selfishness of his successors

7KEYS

14 | Page

James (Jim) A. Johnson and Franklin (Frank) D. Raines6.
Both were ousted due to financial impropriety yet
requested and received huge retirement packages.
In stark contrast, the amount that Maxwell
surrendered contributed to housing for low-income
families. Johnson and Raines on the other hand arguably

contributed to Fannie Mae’s eventual collapse and global

economic crisis. How different can these sacrificial and
selfish succession legacies possibly be?
Another example of a sacrificial succession is the
relatively smooth political succession from Frederik
Willem de Klerk to Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela in South
Africa. Without both incumbent and successor willingly
and intentionally making mutual sacrifices, conflict
rather than consensus would have been almost
guaranteed. Then the history of South Africa would have
been like much of the rest of Africa—plagued by
transition crisis and conflict.
Having a close succession relationship, despite
their strong political and personal differences, was a
crucial factor in the successful succession from de Klerk
to Mandela. Both were obviously motivated by mutual
self-interest. Nevertheless, the greater good of the nation
and the people were ultimately put first by both men.
Their successional leaderships were defined by a
willingness to mutually sacrifice7.
For de Klerk it was sacrificing his future political
leadership ambitions and with Mandela it was serving
peaceful instead of radical political change. Both men left
a virtually unparalleled successful succession legacy in
Africa and jointly won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. De
Klerk continues his role in brokering peaceful successions
through the Global Leadership Foundation, which he
founded. Nelson Mandela is honoured as an elder
statesmen and peacemaker.
A fitting quote from F. W. de Klerk about this

tumultuous time in South Africa’s history and the key
role his and Mandela’s successional leadership played in

it is a fitting conclusion to this chapter and introduction
to the ensuing seven keys.

7KEYS

15 | Page

“Finally, leaders must accept that there is no end to change -
and must plan for their own departure. As soon as one has

achieved one’s transformation objectives one must start the

process all over again. In a world in which change is
accelerating, fundamental and unpredictable there is no

respite or time to rest on one’s laurels. One of the most

difficult decisions for any leader is to accept that he, too, will
one day be swept away by the unrelenting river of time. The
wise leader will know when to leave and when to pass the
baton to a new generation8.”

A successful succession is essential to effective
leadership yet is so often overlooked as being an integral
part of it. Succession is integral to leadership. So much
so that in this study the order is overturned from
leadership succession to read “succession leadership”.
Many examples of this reorientation will be shared
throughout the book.

Probably the most important reorientation in
thinking necessary to become more successful and
successional is the first of the 7Keys. Overturning orders
requires a willingness to change the way things are
normally done so that other ways can be tried and
applied. Overturning orders is the first Key that starts
the sacrificial process.

7Keys.

7KEYS

16 | Page

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