So the Lord said to Moses, “Take Joshua son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay your hand upon him; have him stand before Eleazar the priest and all the congregation, and commission him in their sight.” Numbers 27:18–19
How do you replace Moses? How do you transition from an iconic leadership figure to another person who must follow in their footsteps? How does leadership succession work so that a newly minted leader feels empowered to do the job assigned to them? It is a daunting challenge that so many communities, organizations, corporations, and institutions are forced to wrestle with. A charismatic and galvanizing leader dies, retires, or leaves for another job, and questions of succession fill people with tremendous anxiety. What is to be done?
The leadership transition between Moses and Joshua had several important steps. First, Joshua was selected based on the belief that he had the right gifts for the job. Second, Moses placed his hands on Joshua, physically demonstrating his own affirmation of this young man. And, finally, other leaders, such as the priest Eleazar, stood in support of Joshua. All these proceedings were done in plain sight of the people who would wind up following Joshua. How do you transition leadership successfully? Pick a gifted person. Secure the blessing of prior and current leadership. And make sure the people in the organization are witnesses to the entire process. There should be no secrets in succession.
Have you witnessed a leadership transition that worked particularly well?
Lord, You not only care about us as individual people, You also care for the institutions and organizations and communities that we inhabit. You care about faithful leadership, and about healthy transitions in leadership. You also know that secrecy often undermines succession. Please safeguard our leaders, and when it is time for transition, help us to engage in a thoughtful and faithful process of succession. In Jesus’ name, I pray. AMEN.