What happens when you’re no longer the leader of whatever you lead?
Will your church, ministry, or department grow? Will it implode?
Will it shrink back to some smaller version of itself now that your awesome leadership is missing?
If you want to know one of the conversations that will dominate the next decade of church and business leadership, it’s this one: succession planning.
The vast majority of churches have no succession plan in place for the senior leader or for most leaders. And that means the future is in significant jeopardy.
Surprisingly, business is not all that different.
According to a Stanford Law School report, 46% of companies have no succession plan for a CEO. 39% admitted they would have zero candidates if they had to appoint a new CEO tomorrow.
We live in an era where large churches (and organizations) started or led by baby boomers and Gen Xers will soon need to find a new leader, and few of us are well-prepared for that.
Every leader (at every level of any organization) needs to wrestle with this question: Is what started with me going to end with me?
And if you care about the mission more than you care about yourself, the answer should be a resounding no.
No matter how successful your leadership has been, ultimately there’s no success without succession.
And yet I hear story after story from non-senior leaders who tell me their senior leader is overdue to move on but won’t.
I also hear from many other leaders who say they have zero bench…nobody coming behind them.
While the succession question is a big issue we’ll explore again and again in this space, here’s one angle that needs to be explored.
What if your insecurity is holding you back from creating a great succession plan?
Here are five signs your insecurity is getting in the way.
1. You feel threatened when someone else gets applause
You know that feeling you get when someone else preaches or takes the meeting and others swoon over how well they did?
Yeah, that feeling.
Kill it. As soon as you can.
It’s natural to feel threatened when someone else gets the applause. But it’s not healthy to stay there.
If you hate it when others succeed in your sandbox, you’ll never develop young talent.
Your insecurity can drive you to crazy places and into lonely places.
Remember, great leaders don’t build platforms; they build people.
2. You have a hard time giving other people credit
This trait is a tell-tale sign that your insecurity is impacting your leadership.
Why can’t you just give a compliment? Why can’t you give credit where credit is due?
Why can’t you be genuinely happy when someone else succeeds?
Life is actually not a zero-sum game – at least not life in God’s Kingdom. For you to win, someone else does not have to lose.
If you can’t compliment a talented leader who does what you do, why not?
If you can’t celebrate a gifted co-worker, why is that?
You do not need to be the only one who is ‘great’ at something to be great.
In fact, truly great leaders surround themselves with other great (and greater) leaders.
3. You come up with 100 reasons why most people aren’t good enough to do your job
If you let your insecurity fester, your brain will invent 100 reasons why no one is good enough to do what you do.
This person doesn’t have the right attitude.
She’s not as articulate as you are.
He doesn’t have enough smarts.
She doesn’t have the it factor.
He doesn’t handle meetings as well as you do.
And on and on and on it goes.
Think back to when you started out. Someone took a chance on you. You weren’t all put together and perfect. Frankly, you still aren’t.
Insecure people tend to overlook their own weaknesses and focus on someone else’s. That’s a perverse way to make you feel better about yourself.
Effective leaders believe if someone can do something 80% as well as you can then you should let them lead. Some would even say give them the keys if they can do it 50% as well.
If you think you’re the only person who can do your job, you need to think again.
4. You secretly want things to go less well once you’re gone
This one’s so ugly, but it’s true in too many cases.
You secretly hope that one day when you’re no longer in your role, people will come up to you and tell you it was so much better when you led things.
If your church’s success depends 100% on your leadership, you haven’t led well in the long term.
5. You can’t imagine your life apart from your role
Many leaders struggle to imagine a day where they no longer do what they do every day in leadership.
That’s a mistake.
Sure, you can work or do ministry for the rest of your life, but you shouldn’t need an organization to exist to help you do it. Especially if your best days are behind you as a leader.
You can volunteer, work in another role, start something or get creative in finding new ways to use the gifts God has given you.
If you can’t imagine yourself existing apart from your current role, just know you’ve made yourself more important than the mission.
And church leaders, never make yourself more important than the mission.
A Quick Hack to Become More Secure
Becoming more secure as a leader is a lifelong process for all of us who are a little insecure. Go see a good Christian counselor. Pray. Talk to friends. All those things will help.
But if you want a shortcut to becoming more secure overnight, try this: act like you’re secure, even if you’re not.
Give people credit where credit is due. Push others into the spotlight. Pray when you feel threatened. Imagine an organization that’s bigger and better when you’re gone.
I know every time I feel a little insecure, I just try to do what a secure person would do. And I pray about it.
It’s amazing what can happen when you do that.
It’s no substitute for the long journey of the heart God wants to take with you, but it’s an incredible hack that will get you through tomorrow’s meeting when that oh-so-talented young leader wants to do something new.
Two years ago I stepped out of the lead pastor role at the church I founded precisely because I wanted to see it thrive into the next generation.
You can also listen to Episode 110 for free on:
I also cover the structural issues you need to tackle to create a church that’s not leader-dependent in my new course, Breaking 200 without Breaking You.
You can learn more here.
What Do You Think?
Have you felt the insecurity rise inside you when succession comes up?
What have you done to fight it?
Scroll down and leave a comment!