Lately I’ve been reading a lot about CEO succession and leadership transition as I work through the drafts of my upcoming book, Who’s Running This Farm (Next?). Interestingly, many top managerial consulting experts suggest that current CEO’s not be part of the selection process for their replacements. The era of the hand-picked successor has (or should) come to an end, sources purport. Having been involved in the process with agribusiness clients, I see the value in the current leader helping to create a selection committee or making connections in the industry for board members and then stepping back from the process. There is no doubt, the more the current CEO is involved, the outcome is naturally distorted by that influence. But what of the leadership transition at the farm gate where a steering committee hasn’t been appointed and the successor is very likely sitting across from the current CEO at Sunday dinner? It’s much more complex, of course. So, can the current leader really step away from naming the farm’s successor? Is it even possible? Does it matter?
It’s an interesting question I’ve been asking growers to consider as operating a farming enterprise becomes more complex and tends to require a burgeoning list of business, management, and technical skills that were simply not thought of a generation or two ago. Why not take a more professional, measured, and less biased approach to leadership transition? Could a steering committee be appointed from a group of trusted advisor? Could have family members interview for the job? Is a non-family member with business experience the right choice instead? When should the formal process begin? How do you know what skills are even necessary for tomorrow’s farm CEO’s?
I certainly don’t have all the answers, but in my upcoming book Who’s Running This Farm (Next)? I am going to explore the questions and my intent is to get you talking about developing and coaching your next generation to take the top seat in the business as early as possible. I cannot wait to debut it for you so watch in the coming months for news and updates. In the meantime, I’m launching a 5-part series on creating culture for the month of April beginning next week!