Two weeks ago, I was involved in a car accident. A car hydroplaned and hit me head on. I was on my way home from church with my three-year-old grandson, Josiah, in the back seat. First, let me say as loudly as I can with written words, that I am still praising God that Josiah only had a minor scrape to his chin and that he is perfectly okay. We have made a lifetime memory of riding in an ambulance together and sharing stories of when, as Josiah says, “Grammy, the car broke.”
Both cars were totaled, and most of my personal injuries are related to the seat belt and air bag that kept me from being critically injured. I have two fractures in my right arm, lots of bruises, and overall just the pain of a fifty-eight-year-old body being hit at what the trooper said was a 75 mph force. I was out of work for a week and then not able to drive for another week. Currently I’m waiting for my fractures to heal, adapting to not being able to use my right arm and hand, regular doctor visits, more X-rays, monitoring pain, and I am sure, physical therapy in the future.
I have been whining lately about all this but also asking God to teach me all I need to learn. I know I have more to go, but here are a few insights on leadership:
1. Build a strong organization.
Whether major or minor, there will be times when you will be an absent leader. It may be something personal in your life, your family’s life, or your organization may ask you to take on a different assignment. The organization you lead should keep moving if you are absent being clear on mission, strategy, and work. It is your job to make sure the organization knows with clarity how to define success. If your organization is paralyzed when you are absent, you are building an organization around you that will fail when you ultimately do leave.
2. Build a strong leadership team.
Your leadership team should be strong and able to step in to fill any gap in your leadership. My wreck happened on a Sunday, and that Monday was our executive leadership presentations for next year’s budget and operating plans—one of the most critical leadership meetings of the year. The process and team work in our budget planning, allowed key leaders on my team to step in and present without missing a beat. I had also briefed key executives on the significant metrics in our plans so there were no surprises. Give a significant amount of your leadership energy on building a strong leadership team. Can you trust them to lead if and when you are absent?
3. Develop someone to take your place.
Every organization is different and the leadership needs of an organization will determine the best leadership decision for the future. But great leaders know they will not always be in their seat, so they develop others to be future leaders. Whether those leaders sit in your seat, or another leadership seat, you should be able to identify leaders on your team that could step into your leadership role if needed.
Even though I am whining, I know I am on the mend and will get stronger in the days ahead. I am grateful to be back at work and so thankful for my team that kept things moving forward. But I also know there will be a day in the future, when I will leave this leadership role. This is true of all leaders. It is just a matter of time. When I leave, I pray God would allow me to hand off a strong organization to the next leader and that leader would be able to do even more to strengthen our commitment to serve the church and advance the gospel.
I would love to hear any lessons you have learned when you experienced an absent leader.