The recent news that Bob Iger is returning to The Walt Disney Company as CEO got me thinking…do we have the right successor in place when we leave?

Having had the pleasure to work at The Walt Disney Company under his leadership, Iger is truly the man, the myth, the legend. He’s got the whole package any leader hopes to have; a true visionary who is bold, brave, speaks with integrity and accountability, with a dash of charm, charisma, and courage and who, most importantly, has the trust and respect of his team and board.

Too big of shoes to fill

But I would argue this didn’t bode well for Bob Chapek who succeeded Iger in February 2020. Or for any successor, for that matter. Iger famously extended his own contract four times before finally stepping aside himself, so should anyone be all that surprised that no one could fill his shoes and that he’s back so soon after having left?

Undoing what was done

And in his return, he announced to his employees on Monday that he will be “implementing organisational and operating changes” over the next few weeks. He went on to say he had tasked a group of executives with designing "a new structure that puts more decision-making back in the hands of our creative teams and rationalises costs". Basically, undoing what was put in place by his successor when he left almost three years ago.

Fit for the future

Now the hard work starts. He has agreed to stay for two years in which his focus is to find a successor to lead the company. Easier said than done. But one that all leaders must do, no matter how big or small your company is.

None of us will be in the same role forever and we all must ensure we have people, our second in command, waiting in the wings to take over after we leave - to pick up the baton and continue the good work, to finish the mission, and carry on the legacy. We work hard to deliver results and growth for our brands and that needs to carry on long after we leave. But in order for it to be a successful transition, we must give as much attention to those who take over from us as we do the business itself.

For me, that includes three principles:

Recruit Well

Putting effort into recruiting the right people to take over is essential. I always want my team to have people in it that will truly be better than me. I want to ensure I have someone who I can mentor and develop so that when it’s time for me to move on, the company has someone they can promote into the role easily and successfully.

Train Well

It’s all well and good to recruit the right people but, we need to train them up too. We need to invest in their growth and development. Whether that is coaching, mentoring, or providing opportunities to enhance their core skills through upskilling and outside learning - no matter how seasoned a leader we are - we all have room for growth, development, and learning.

Treat Well

And above all, treat them well. Look after your people and all aspects of their life. Ensure they have room to shine, autonomy to lead, ability to make decisions, and have your full support and commitment. Give them the chance to build respect and trust; with the organisation and board.. Make sure work gives them the space to inspire and be inspired.

So, who is your successor?

Do you have a plan in place to ensure you are equipping your future talent to take over and be as, or even more, successful after you leave? If not, start one.

Leadership is as much about taking your team and business to the next level as it is spending the time and energy recruiting, training and treating your team well to ensure you have a strong successor in place to carry on the mission long after you’re gone.

Tony Miller is Marketing Director at WW (formerly Weight Watchers).

Article image credit: Josh Hallet, Flickr (Creative Commons)