Succession Planning: “Appointment Without Anointment Always Led to Disaster”

By John Pearson

Note: This is the second of 11 blogs featuring practical wisdom from the new ECFA Governance Toolbox Series No. 4: Succession Planning. Free to ECFA members, you can download the resource and video by clicking here.

“…the greatest tool for effective steward leaders is a mirror and a group of friends to be sure they are looking into it with clarity and focus.”

That insight is from R. Scott Rodin’s important book, The Steward Leader: Transforming People, Organizations and Communities. Who is holding your current leaders accountable—and what do they believe about leadership?

The second of 11 principles in the new ECFA Governance Toolbox Series on succession planning warns, “Before your board’s CEO succession planning discussion spirals into the nuts and bolts, stop the presses…” and reflect on this topic:

“Principle No. 2: Discern Your Board’s Succession Values and Beliefs”

Are all of your board members (and senior team members) on the same theological page? Is everyone in alignment on what Christ-centered leadership looks like? Noting two resources from Rodin and David McKenna, Video #2 of 4 wades into these important waters. Don’t skip this one!

Rodin says the antidote to the “owner-leader” trap is the steward leader. He skillfully contrasts the classic leadership styles (servant leadership, great man and charismatic leadership, transactional leadership, transformational leadership, etc.) with his unique and deeply biblical insights on the concept of a steward leader.

And then this gut-check for CEO search committees:

“I know of few Christian leaders today who were anointed before they were appointed.

“We have mostly employed the business model of doing careful searches, looking for Christian leaders who we can appoint to office. We check their credentials, put them through rigorous interviews and give them psychological tests before we make the critical appointment. Once they are in place, we then anoint them and ask God to bless their work.

“The biblical evidence seems to indicate that God selects leaders in the opposite order. Samuel anointed David before appointing him king. The selection criterion for leadership was not based on who seemed most fit for the appointment, but on whom God had anointed for the task. And appointment without anointment always led to disaster.”


DOWNLOAD: ECFA Governance Toolbox Series No. 4: Succession Planning – 11 Principles for Successful Successions: “Every CEO is an Interim CEO.” The toolbox includes
Read-and-Engage Viewing Guide (20 pages) – photocopy for board members
Facilitator Guide (10 pages)
• 4 short videos (4-5 minutes each)
• Additional resources and succession planning tools

BOARD DISCUSSION: Do you agree that “appointment without anointment” will lead to disaster?

MORE RESOURCES: Follow the “40 Blogs. 40 Wednesdays.” color commentaries on Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom. Click here.


This article was originally posted on the “Governance of Christ-Centered Organizations” blog, hosted by ECFA.
John Pearson, a board governance consultant and author, was ECFA’s governance blogger from 2011 to 2020.
© 2021, ECFA and John Pearson. All rights reserved.

This text is provided with the understanding that ECFA is not rendering legal, accounting, or other professional advice or service. Professional advice on specific issues should be sought from an accountant, lawyer, or other professional.