An excellent depiction of succession comes straight out of the Bible. As Israel is preparing to enter the Promised Land, the nation needs a new leader! In your organization, this may be a crisis. You’ve got or you’ve been a great leader. But what if you’re sidelined by age or ability?
This is the situation Moses is in. He isn’t the leader Israel needs to take the Promised Land. He’s too old. He’s more diplomatic lawgiver than militaristic conqueror. He’s been a great leader. But it’s time for a change.
Israel didn’t promptly gin up for an election. The leading Israelites didn’t fill the airwaves with attack ads or go out kissing babies. There was no political superstar who burst onto the scene.
The transition was not a crisis.
How did Joshua so smoothly take the reins? It didn’t start the day Israel needed a new leader.
- Moses cultivated the next generation of leaders. Remember the spies Moses sent into Canaan to survey the land? He was cultivating young leaders from each tribe.
- Moses established Culture Keepers. New generations of leaders will need guidance. The 70 elders of Israel were his delegates in the Nation, there to train up new leaders and keep the culture built over 40 years in the desert.
- Moses allowed his leaders to lead. Moses was secure in his leadership and in his anointing. He allowed his judges and leaders to actually lead. Sometimes, we give lip service to raising up new leaders without providing them with authority.
- Joshua was patient and obedient. Of course he was! Moses was anointed by God. Other promising leaders, though, rose up against Moses and were destroyed because of it. Joshua waited until it was his time.
- Joshua allowed himself to be mentored. It would have been easy after Joshua was proven right about entering Canaan for him to become a surly “Told-You-So” quasi-leader. Instead, he drew and remained close to Moses.
- Joshua led from his own strengths. Joshua was a military leader. When it was time for him to lead Israel, he broke in many ways from Moses’s leadership style. He didn’t try to be Moses. It was time to take the land, and Joshua was the man for the job.
Another important element in this story is the relationship between Moses and Joshua. Joshua had been anointed by God, but he had been anointed by Moses, too. Israel’s trust was confirmed by the blessing of its leader.
Israel mourned 30 days after the death of Moses. The Israelites’ grief wasn’t out of a place of hopelessness, though. The outgoing leader had prepared and anointed the successor his people needed.
By the book of Joshua, Israel was ready to say “All that you command us we will do, and wherever you send us, we will go.”
Have you been in a successor role? What made the difference in your experience? If you’ve been the outgoing leader, what was most difficult for you?