A Leader’s Lasting Value Is Measured by Succession

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A Leader’s Lasting Value Is Measured by Succession
Matthew 28:16–20

JUST ABOUT anybody can make an organization look good for a moment—by launching a flashy new program or product, drawing crowds to a big event, or slashing the budget to boost the bottom line. But leaders who leave a legacy take a different approach. They lead with tomorrow as well as today in mind.

When all is said and done, your ability as a leader will be judged by how well your people and your organization did after you were gone. Your lasting value will be measured by succession.

When all is said and done, your ability as a leader will be judged by how well your people and your organization did after you were gone. Your lasting value will be measured by succession.

To create a legacy, you need to be strategic and intentional. The following guidelines can help you get started:

1. Decide ahead of time what you are willing to give up.
Being a leader has a price; being a leader who leaves a legacy has an even greater price. When you work to create a legacy, your life is no longer your own. That’s why it’s so important to know what you are willing to give up so that others can go up.
What are you willing to give up? How much of your time? How much of your money? How many opportunities will you forgo? How many of your dreams are you willing to set aside to ensure that one or maybe two survive in the lives of others?

2. Take the initiative to start the process.
If you want to create a legacy, you have to initiate the process—and there will be times when you’ll have to fight for it. Jesus’ followers had various agendas. Some, like Simon the Zealot, wanted Him to lead a revolt against Rome. Others, like James and John, wanted positions of power (Mark 10:37). Even Peter tried to dissuade Jesus from the very act that would release the other disciples to follow in Jesus’ footsteps (Matt. 16:22).

3. Know your goals with each person.
The process of creating a legacy relies primarily on people. It requires the selection of the right people and the right development process for each individual. Jesus carefully chose His legacy carriers. Scripture says He intentionally picked the twelve He wanted; He didn’t take the first guys who showed up. And He didn’t treat all of them the same. He had a specific development process for each person.

4. Prepare to pass the baton well.
Once you have prepared your people, you need to prepare for the transition. There’s a real art to preparing a successor, and it doesn’t always go smoothly. Jesus had trouble handing the baton to His followers. He appeared to them after His resurrection and gave them the Great Commission because some of them still didn’t get it. Peter, James, and John all returned to fishing after they saw Jesus resurrected! As you prepare to hand off to a successor, do everything you can to make for a smooth transition. And even then, plan to offer additional assistance without getting in the way.

Jesus’ IDEA for Leaving a Legacy

Jesus faced the task of changing the lives of people thousands of years after Him—and He succeeded. He did it without writing any books, building any schools, or founding any institutions. So if Jesus chose to deposit His legacy in people, we should learn His method and practice it as best we can. Consider Jesus’ IDEA for working in the lives of people:


Jesus constantly taught, most often with parables. More than half of the Gospels’ content presents Jesus’ teaching. The parable of the sower gives us insight into how Jesus worked. When the disciples asked Him about the meaning of the parable, He explained it, revealing insightful truth cloaked in the story.


Educational philosophy today relies too heavily on instruction. If Jesus had taught the disciples and done nothing more, they never would have carried on His legacy. But Jesus shared His life with them.

Jesus’ disciples went through three phases in their training:

• Come and see. Jesus invited them to observe Him and His priorities. He invited them to evaluate Him (and themselves in light of what He was doing).

• Come and follow Me. Jesus asked for a greater level of commitment. The disciples were to do more than observe; they were to associate with Him.

• Come and be with Me. This phase occupied most of Jesus’ three years of ministry. He required the disciples’ commitment and companionship. The Twelve were present with Him as He taught, traveled, prayed, ate with “sinners,” healed the sick, and raised the dead. They saw consistency between His teaching and His actions, and they learned the how and why of all He did.


After Jesus had modeled good leadership and taught spiritual truths, He didn’t turn His men loose and move on. He gradually worked them into positions of independent leadership by giving them valuable experience. Jesus gave His followers an opportunity to practice what He had taught and to practice leadership.


Jesus repeatedly evaluated the progress of His disciples. After the return of the seventy, He debriefed them, gave them instruction concerning priorities, and celebrated with them (Luke 10:17–24). Jesus also gave individual assessment to His disciples, including specific feedback concerning their character and their capabilities.

If you want to leave a legacy, you must look to people to carry it for you. Find the right people, and use the right preparation process for each of them. Only as you pour yourself into them will they be able to pour out themselves for others. No one can give what he does not have.

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