I was watching TV this weekend when I came across an interview with Sir Richard Branson. As the interview was coming to a close, the interviewer asked him his advice for a new CEO. He said, “Find your successor and teach that person everything you know. That way you can focus on the bigger things.” The interviewer replied that finding and developing your successor is intimidating for some leaders. His reply? They are weak leaders.
Real leaders understand the need for and benefit of identifying a successor. It doesn’t matter if you are the CEO or a first-time manager, identifying and developing someone who can do your job should be a priority. Early in my career, I was a couple of months into a new job when my boss told me to think about who could take over for me in 18 months. I was floored, feeling like I didn’t even know what my job was yet. And, I didn’t identify and develop a successor. Shame on me. It interfered with my ability to move to another role, jeopardized the department’s talent pipeline and kept someone from being developed. Since then, I’ve prioritized developing those around me, informally and formally.
When we surround ourselves with great talent and help that talent become as successful as we are, we demonstrate one of the keys to leadership success — our ability to bring others along on the journey.