Succession Planning: “One Size Fits All” Is Bad Counsel

By John Pearson

Note: This is the fourth 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.

Randon Samelson’s helpful book on biblical strategic planning describes a leadership succession plan that actually worked!

Breakthrough: Unleashing the Power of a Proven Plan outlines a six-step plan from 1 Chronicles 28-29. That passage is the narrative for King David’s baton passed to his son, Solomon, that included the blueprints to the temple. The result? The temple was completed. Solomon thrived. Outgoing CEO David did not whine in the background.

Skip the six-step plan, warns Samelson, and you’ll face at least three problems when approaching givers. (And you must keep donors in mind in your succession planning.)

But note: the David to Solomon succession plan is just one plan—it’s not the only plan. “One size fits all” is bad counsel. Check out Moses and Joshua, Elijah and Elisha, and Paul and Timothy (2 Timothy 2:2).

Principle No. 4: Model Successful Succession in the Boardroom First also reminds us: “As the board goes—so goes the organization.”

While boards expect their CEOs and senior team members to have stellar succession plans in place, it’s rare when boards excel at their own succession planning. The best boards anticipate their future leadership needs and build board succession planning into their DNA.

Principle No. 4 lists three aspirations onboard succession, including: “We are developing a quality ‘pipeline’ of likely board prospects so when relocation, death, or the incapacitation of a board member requires filling an unexpired term, we are ready.”

Check it out here:

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: While certain biblical examples of leadership successions are not necessarily prescriptive for your unique situation, what are some foundational biblical principles you can glean from David and Solomon or Paul and Timothy or others?

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.