Leadership Lift-Off

Leadership Succession

Though I don’t travel as frequently these days as I used to, I do find myself on enough flights to recognize that the laws of physics never change. The pilot of the plane knows exactly what speed he must attain before he reaches “rotation” (where he can pull back on the yoke and lift the plane off the ground). That speed is normally about 140 mph.

Now what I’ve learned is, the lighter the airplane—the less packed it is, the fewer number of passengers, etc.—the more quickly the airplane is able to lift-off. (Obviously, that is why commuter planes can take off and land on a much shorter runway.) On the other hand, if it’s a large airplane or if it’s loaded with passengers and luggage, it can take an extra mile of runway space to reach “rotation” speed.

The same is true when it comes to changes in leadership. Smaller changes may take place in a shorter period of time because the communication effort and amount of administrative and/or organizational needs are not too extensive.

In contrast, major changes such as leadership succession take a very long time to execute effectively. The reason is that these decisions affect everyone who is on the “plane” and have a great deal of “weight” attached to them.

It’s not uncommon for a church to spend 5 years in a process of preparing for a successful leadership transition. The churches that normally fail in this process are the ones that try to envision it happening in a couple of years or just before the pastor wants to retire. The amount of time it takes for the congregation to come to terms with the change, it’s implications, and the vision for the future is vastly underestimated.

Of course, there are many other leadership changes that fall somewhere in between these two extremes. But one thing is for sure, you want to have enough speed to successfully “lift-off” in any of your leadership or transition moments.

Enjoy the flight!

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