Big Lessons in Small Matters

When we succeed in what we do, it gratifies us and affirms our effort. In another context, to succeed, means to take someone’s place, for example, of a leader who steps down.


It is my privilege to observe the masterful orchestration of leadership transition in action in SYFC recently. The incumbent National Director, having led the organisation effectively for the last 16 years, set the gears in motion three years before, to develop a younger slate of leaders. These leaders grew into their roles, with one of them further mentored to receive the baton of leadership at an appropriate time.

I felt it took much foresight and humility as a relatively young National Director, to work out a plan to be replaced by someone less experienced. In many organisations today, leaders overstay even into their twilight years, failing to rejuvenate the tired leadership or overlook planning for the longer term. In others, power struggles plague leaders. Either scenario is detrimental, sometimes breaking down the organisation. It is heartening to know that renewal is in the DNA of SYFC staff and volunteers, as we witnessed such transitions over the years.

To proactively strategise for renewal demonstrates this leader’s confidence that God is ultimately the true leader. Even more remarkable, is that his rationale for transition is not tiredness or a new pursuit, but to nudge others to step up, as he steps down. Moses commissioned Joshua to take over leadership of Israel and “to be strong and courageous”. New leaders inevitably feel the weight of the mantle, and it behooves the experienced leader to strengthen and encourage them, beyond thrusting them to the fore.

I learnt that it is imperative that renewal and succession remain high in a leader’s agenda. The mark of a true leader is not how long he or she remains at the top of an organisation. It is when the leader has nurtured others to be leaders in their own ways, and able to take up the responsibility of leadership, that he or she has truly succeeded.

Keith started volunteering in SYFC in 1992. Today he is a member of the board.