Promote from within, or hire from outside?

March 14, 2008

A leader has been at her organization for over thirty years now and even though she loves what she does, she loves her grand kids more and wants to dedicate time and energy to them. She now faces a tough decision of who is going to be her successor. Will it be someone from inside the organization or will the board have to select someone from outside the organization to replace her?

This question is so important that Jim Collins and Jerry Porras dedicated an entire chapter in their book, Built to Last to this topic of deciding whether to hire someone from outside the organization, or to promote from within. The difference in these two questions has nothing to do with the capabilities and leadership of individuals working under this soon to-be retired executive. I’m proposing that if a leader has to look outside her organization to find her replacement, then she hasn’t led effectively.

Actually, I shouldn’t really say that. She might have led effectively, but she didn’t lead to the highest ability she was capable of. One of the most overlooked and highest payoff leadership principles is developing other leaders under you at your organization. These are people who can steer and guide the ship while you’re in the cabin sleeping. They have the ability, knowledge, experience, and know-how to keep things running.

If she’s done things right, developed her leadership ability to the highest level, developed and mentored other leaders, then she has done her job as a leader. Hence, she should have both the piece of mind and confidence to pass the hat onto someone else and promote from within the organization.

Christopher L. Scott

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Christopher Scott is Small Groups Pastor at Rocky Hilly Community Church in Exeter, CA. He has more than ten years of experience leading volunteers, running nonprofit programs, and teaching the Bible in small group settings. He holds a bachelor's degree from Fresno Pacific University and master's degree from Dallas Theological Seminary.

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