[KINGSTON, Jamaica] – On January 4, 2021, a giant of a tree that provided fruit and shade to its generation was fallen, the world heard the rumble and paused. It was Gordon Arthur Cyrill Stewart, a tycoon and a mammoth of a leader, who had planted a tiny acorn seed that had grown into a mighty oak tree. The founder of the iconic brands such as Sandals Resort International, The ATL Group and The Jamaica Observer had left his footprints in the sands of time. Through his work he had engraved his name in the annals of history at the time of his death at age 79.
The true success however of a leader is never measured while he is alive, but when he or she is gone or steps away from the leadership role. The greatest act of true leadership is who did you raise up to replace you? No matter how tall a tree grows, no matter how strong a tree is. If it cannot produce seeds to reproduce itself, it will only last for one generation.
Likewise, with a leader, no matter what the leader accomplishes during his or her lifetime. If the leader does not raise other leaders up and successfully pass on the baton to his or her successor that leader’s vision and hard work will only last one generation.
To live beyond your generation you must produce seeds that bring forth more trees. And that’s exactly what Gordon Butch Stewart did. He groomed his son Adam Stewart into an exceptional leader and passed the leadership baton to him. It was a very peaceful and smooth transition of power. As a result, the companies never missed a beat, in fact they operated as though the founder is still alive.
In third world countries when leaders die, whatever they start unfortunately dies with them. Especially, because they never had a proper succession plan. Their enterprises split from internal conflicts as would-be successors fight for the spoils.
As I pen this article, I recall driving by a well-known Jamaican company that is currently on life support, its life is going by the passage of each day. The founder died three years ago and there was no true successor and now the business, although with various branches island wide is collapsing. Since the death of the founder, the conditions of the buildings have progressively dilapidated. Within months at least two branches have been closed and its headquarters barely show any resemblance of life.
Importance of Succession Planning
Leaders who fail the process of succession set their companies, church, family, clubs and other enterprises on a path to decline and nonexistence. Sometimes they wait too long to mentor a successor, sometimes they never address the issues at all. Sometimes they choose their successors and never handed power over, other times their successor leaves out of frustration and lack of upward mobility. Whatever causes a leader not to choose or have a successor is one of the best indicators to predict the decline of whatever the founding leader has started.
Succession planning, or the lack of it can be the life and death of any organization. It doesn’t matter what leadership position you hold, it does not matter who you are. Always remember that you are an interim leader. One day you will go, one day you will be replaced. Raise others up and mentor your successor. The greatest act of true leadership is to raise other leaders up. A tree that cannot produce seeds to reproduce itself will only last for one generation.