Stephanie Godfrey, MLS(ASCP)CM, ASCLS-Missouri President

“True leadership lies in guiding others to success and ensuring that everyone is performing at his/her best.” This adapted quote from Bill Owens resonates deeply for many leaders within ASCLS. Succession planning is one of the key tools that we use to ensure continuity and for guiding the next set of leaders within our organization to success. This type of planning allows us to periodically execute a retrospective analysis of what is working well, what is not working as well, what key systems or processes we have that could be working better, and if we have the tools or resources we need to be successful. Born from this approach is a systems perspective for managing our ASCLS organization and ensuring the key processes to achieve the right results are executed with performance excellence. 
Imagine a time when you accepted a leadership role. You likely had many unanswered questions and a varying degree, or perhaps distinctly lacking amount, of resources and supporting materials to help you hit the ground running in your new leadership role. This likely made it more challenging for you to both be successful and ensure performance excellence for the team or project you are leading. This scenario demonstrates the vital need for succession planning that will drive optimal leadership continuity. 

Leadership continuity is often characterized as a systematic (i.e. systems-based) approach toward ensuring a sufficient quantity of capable individuals exist within your organization at any given time who have the necessary skills, knowledge, and abilities to lead the organization. From the people focus, some critical elements for succession planning include:
Identification of high-potential candidates

  • Structured mentor initiatives
  • Directed or guided developmental assignments
  • Jointly created success criteria and measurements

An essential component to this is ensuring an appropriate balance between planning and doing. That is, the best-created plans will only take you so far. At some point, the plans must be tested, assessed, and improved. It is through this iterative process that we can take the planning process to the next level while ensuring a constant focus on member and leader development. 

By focusing on the future, we can demonstrate how we value our membership and partners, that we execute in a manner focused on both organizational and personal learning, that we bake agility and a capacity for rapid change and flexibility into all we do, that we manage by fact and for innovation, and that we focus on results that allow us to create value. This systems perspective and approach to managing our organization and its key processes provides a framework to achieve organizational and personal success.

I leave you with a challenge – what are you doing to ensure leadership continuity? What have you found that works well? Are there specific tools that help you be successful with continuity? Please e-mail me at with your thoughts and ideas. In a future installment, I will share your stories and approaches and some of the methods I have found to be successful