What does bamboo have to do with succession planning? Please let me explain. As many of us know, ‘big boss’ leadership has a damaging impact on churches, ministries and NGOs around the world. Big boss or top-down leadership, as the names indicate, is the opposite of Jesus’ style of servant leadership which releases the potential in others, appropriately enables them to make decisions, and even mistakes, while learning from each one.
The wonderful by-product of servant leadership is that succession planning rarely concern servant leaders, because they consistently ensure everyone under their leadership grows, which results in an abundant crop of talented leaders developing within the organization at any given time.
Servant leaders make it habit to see every employee or volunteer as a future leader. They take the time to get to know as many of them as possible, inquiring about their interests and encouraging their growth.
They believe that developing people within the organization is just as important as accomplishing mission. It is developing people while accomplishing mission that equals true organizational success. Servant leaders put policies in place to enable continuing education and designate resources to staff development, even when resources are painfully scarce.
Young, talented leaders pose no threat to a servant leader as their success multiplies because that is what the leader sincerely desires to see happen. And the younger leaders have little need to leave the organization to pursue their dreams, because they are given room inside to do just that.
This is where bamboo comes to mind. Can you picture in your mind how bamboo grows? Lots of tall, straight, strong stalks grow up side-by-side, not crowding each other out, but giving each its own needed space, sunlight and nutrients. The contrasting picture is of a banyan tree with one large expansive center trunk, large and bushy at the top, but with nothing else able to thrive under its dark shade.
Which does your organization look more like, bamboo or banyan? In the bamboo-style organization, there will always be lots of talented people ready to take on leadership responsibility. Be intentional about creating growth opportunities for those serving with you and one of the rewards will be no fear about succession planning. When it is time to pass on leadership there will be a whole batch of tall, strong and well-nourished people ready to take on the task.
Jane Overstreet, President/CEO
Prior to joining DAI in 1996, Jane served as the Director of Legal Services for Youth With A Mission International while living in the Middle East and Europe. She has a Juris Doctorate and a member of the Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Colorado Bar Associations. Jane did additional graduate coursework in International Law and Global Economic Development.
She serves on the boards of several non-profit organizations and on the stewardship committee of her local church, Covenant Presbyterian. Jane is also a member of the Lausanne Leadership Development Working Group and author of Unleader.