A few years ago I had a conversation with a leader in his early 60s. It went something like this:
Me: I’m really concerned that a lot of leaders don’t have a plan to hand off leadership to someone younger.
Leader: I’m concerned about that, too. I can’t speak for everyone but I know I’d like to retire eventually.
Me: So why aren’t you raising someone up? Someone you can hand the baton off to?
Leader: See that’s the thing. I’m willing to let go of the baton but I worked too hard to just give it away. I’ll know a person is the right one when they take the baton from me instead of waiting for me to give it to them.
Me: But isn’t that disrespectful? All of our lives we’ve been told to respect our elders. I don’t want to take something, I want to earn it.
Leader: I guess that means you aren’t ready.
That was a lot to chew on. But it sparked something in me. I was in my mid-30s, waiting for someone to look at me and say, “One day I’d like to hand this baton off to you.” But what I didn’t understand was that my willingness to be patient, serve my elders, and hope that my hard work would one day pay off was the very thing that was holding me back.
So that’s my challenge for young leaders. Are you waiting for someone to hand you a baton? Or are you working yourself to the point where you’ll be strong enough to take it?