Passing the Leadership Baton
Tuesday, June 5, 2018
Posted by: AEMP
Stan Orr, FASAE, CAE
Chief Executive Officer
I am currently facing a challenge that many AEMP members are facing now or will be at some point in the future. Some sooner than others.
I speak of course of riding off into the sunset. Retirement. Transitioning from being a key part of the success of an enterprise to being of no part.
What I am discovering as I close out my career is I must play a very key, very strategic role in the future of AEMP, recognizing that stepping aside should and must be done right to ensure the long-term viability of the organization.
A friend who recently retired told me one of the biggest challenges he faced in the aftermath of stepping down from a 25+ year, key position in a multi-million dollar enterprise (he was CFO of a municipality) was the reality that the transfer of leadership is both easy and challenging, difficult and inevitable. He used the analogy of the passing of the baton- and the idea there can be a tendency for the enterprise to stumble a bit if not careful on the pass.
I think his baton analogy has a lot of merit for anyone who wants to leave an organization in a better place than they found it, who wants to make sure the next person who comes along is prepared to lead and who, through the efforts of the person leaving, has as many chances to succeed as possible.
And to take the organization to new heights of success. And that is how I see my job for the next 9-12 months.
At this point in time, AEMP is in a dead run in a 1200-meter relay to replace its current CEO - yours truly. It has rounded the last turn and has reached that critical juncture where my arm is fully extended, baton firmly in hand, and the next member of the relay team, in this scenario the Board of Directors and key staff have already begun moving down the track, ready to run like the wind, to take AEMP to new heights.
This is where it can be tricky, as I am reminded that relay batons are easy to drop even in the best of team circumstances and conditions.
On one hand, while certainly looking forward to the change, I am simultaneously loosening my grip and tightening it. Is everyone ready (including me)? I loosen my grip. Did I transfer the knowledge baton completely and effectively? I tighten my grip. Have I provided the new team with the tools they need to succeed? More tightening and loosening.
While these thoughts race through my mind (pun intended), the Board of Directors and staff naturally have thoughts racing through their minds as well. They see opportunities for change, improvements, and the nervousness and apprehension of managing a change that was 20 years in the making.
The result can be trepidation by both parties gripping the baton. Grip too tight, and you cause a drop. Grip too loose and you cause a drop. The natural reaction is to consciously or subconsciously tighten our respective grips. That is why team is so important.
I am quite confident some members of AEMP are feeling this in their own situations. As professionals, they want to leave things in a better way, and to pass the baton to their successor in such a way they have a firm grip and succeed in taking the organization to the next level.
I firmly believe that to aid in the passing of the baton, everyone must realize the need to grip it confidently, with empathy, respect, and great care. For the passer there must be an ability to recognize the time has come to let go. For the succeeding team, there must be an understanding that, with the passing of the baton comes great responsibility and skills- some based on history, some on what is yet to be discovered, some on instinct. Not an easy task.
But one thing is for certain. Everyone will be expecting them to run like the wind.