When I hear the word transition, the first image that pops in my mind is that of delivering a baby. When we were expecting our first child, we decided to be the brave “Natural Childbirth” folks. After all, during those days it had become almost a test of one’s spirituality. So of course, we needed to comply.
Wayne and I faithfully attended the classes. I practiced the breathing exercises and he was the eager coach. On about the 4th class we began to hear about this thing called “transition”. It is the final part of the birth process. The teacher did finally note that transition would be something different. Using the word pain was against the rules. But I began to read between the lines and realized this was going to be tough. However, always assured that if I practiced the proper breathing, I would get through this and the joy of birth would outweigh this difficult time.
Well, I would like to say I was a hero, and all was bliss. I did not need anyone to announce to me that I had hit transition. I knew and it was not as had been described. I was exhaling when I should have been inhaling. I wanted to get up and run out of the room thinking that would make it all go away. I was losing control. I still wanted the power, but alas the baby won.
There are a few principles I have observed and experienced over the years regarding transition that are not unlike that of having a baby.
1. Leaders not facing the reality of transition. In this state, many leaders ignore the future of transition. They believe that somehow God will bring in the next person at that time. But I have seen them blind to the leader God has provided and want to hang onto the power.
2. Leaders talking of transition too early. Making it known that they are looking for someone to take their place. This style causes a culture of tentativeness and even competition. I have observed the vision being lost in something of a power struggle.
3. Leaders naming a replacement without a time frame. This creates several dilemmas. The “leader in waiting” gets restless, starts critiquing systems and the leader starts getting his/her own following.
4. Leaders naming a replacement privately with the selected person. As time moves along and the leader works with the person, it becomes apparent this person cannot be the replacement. So the replacement is let go. This creates friction, distrust, and division.
However, the next time around with childbirth transition was much easier. I cooperated with the baby. (the future)
There are some positive leadership transitions that are much like my second childbirth experience.
1. Leaders consult those around him/her as to the future as they see it. For example, all cultures are changing and a leader for a certain time is not the leader for the future. It involves the community as opposed to a top-down decision.
2. This is followed by a “working group” of some type to determine needs of the future leader.
3. Some transitions consist of both the old and the new working together for a while. However, it is imperative that the old go on to something else after the transition is complete and this arrangement is timely – Not to long – Trust is transferred.
I am hoping that the principles mentioned as well as the metaphor of childbirth will engage further creative conversation far beyond what I have written.
OF COURSE, AT THE TOP OF ALL THIS IS THE GUIDANCE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. Listening and Submitting to our LORD. I love how the Lord speaks through community.