Need for succession planning
Today’s ageing managers of Gurdwaras and Sikh organisations will not be there in a few years. Prominent leaders of today will be either replaced by younger able leaders or the organisations they lead will run into the sands. These realities remind us of the great importance of succession planning so that the transition is smooth and experience is passed on.
To quote from a recent article, that means, “preparing the next group of people to take over the leadership when the time comes for the reins to be passed on….It involves transfer of knowledge, skills and allowing wisdom to grow through building capabilities.” (Dr Gurcharan Singh writing in Asia Samachar, Malaysia.) For many years, I have felt that lack of effective succession planning is one of our serious shortcomings as a community.
Today’s Gurdwara parbandhaks and organisation leaders should have foresight to train managers and leaders of tomorrow. Yet, with some exceptions, Sikh leaders generally become more ambitious with age and refuse to build teams of equals who can carry on the good work when they are no longer there. They refuse to take the backseat and let others drive while giving experience-based advice. Somehow, they think they cannot be replaced; that they are indispensable.
We had a saying in the service that the graveyard is full of indispensable civil servants. That means no one should think that they cannot be replaced. Also, by training and passing on experience, one aim of a good manager should be to run out of own job! That requires timely delegation of responsibility. Parents do this with children as they grow up. So should those leading in our Gurdwaras and organisations delegate responsibility and pass on lead roles to younger men and women and encourage team-working.
Sometimes young people are in a rush to take over. To quote Gurcharan Singh, “The older generation is deemed matured and their knowledge base in Sikhi related matters also is perceived to be at a more credible level compared to the inexperienced younger generation.” It is important that young Sikhs should have the humility to respect experience. They should not be in a hurry to change things.
So, the solution is proper succession planning by Sikh organisations. William Rothwell (1994) described succession planning as “a systematic effort designed to ensure the continued effective performance of an organization…by making provision for the development and replacement of key people over time.” It is an ongoing process which prepares next generation to take over roles over time. It means “identifying possible successors and providing them the appropriate skills and experiences for the roles. It involves transfer of knowledge, skills and allowing wisdom to grow through building capabilities.”
Different people in a group would have different skills and inclinations to do sewa in fields of own choice. They should be encouraged accordingly. Depending on the need and the type of skills required, future “leaders” will emerge as “first amongst equals.”
As shown by Guru Gobind Singh ji, as a community we have to overcome the idea of a single leader for life.
Gurmukh Singh OBE