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Replacing an Outstanding Leader

Replacing an Outstanding Leader

When someone has been successfully leading a team or organization and moves on, in addition to a feeling of loss there is often a panic that ensues – how on earth can that person be replaced? Cloning is out of the question that’s for sure but a longing for ‘more of the same’ is so very strong many businesses (and sports teams too) go out of their way to find someone as close to their idea of the ideal.

This is in stark contrast to companies who seem to look for leaders who are completely different to the failed leaders they replace – just look at any number of the banking changes in recent years.

There are a few things that need to be thought about when trying to replace that person who most people thought was just perfect.


  1. Whoever comes in will always be compared to their predecessor and mostly in a negative way – “X never would have done that”. Given that this is the case don’t delay in deciding the kind of person now needed for the job and get them in.

  2. So, what kind of person is needed for the job going forward? One thing you can be sure of is that whatever the external and internal circumstances were for their predecessor these will be different for the new incumbent. Do what you can to gauge what these circumstances are likely to be as they may determine the type of individual you are after maybe in terms of their experience and leadership approach.

  3. This leads on to the culture that has been created by the person you really didn’t want to loose. What behaviours did they exhibit that engendered the good feelings towards them and helped develop the organizational culture that you wish to continue and develop? Equally, where there any behaviours that you don’t want their successor to have?

Replacing an extremely successful and well respected leader is not easy whether you have to deal with a sudden departure or if you have to forward plan for the unthinkable. By answering the questions above you start to get to the heart of what made that leader so successful and what you are likely to need to continue in a positive fashion.