Could Your Organization Continue Without You?

by Don Smith

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Yesterday the lead high school minister for West Side Christian Church, Drew Peterson, delivered his last official service here. A fantastic leader, he has had a tremendous positive impact on thousands of young lives.

Drew was offered a lead pastor role for an entire church, and couldn't turn down the offer. A good friend who I've had the pleasure of serving with for the last four years, I'll miss him and wish him well.

Last night, he challenged us to focus on the mission of the church, not on the loss of any leader in particular. Drew helped create a phenomenal leadership team, and while things may never be the same, I do not doubt that our church will continue growing even in his absence, which leads me to my thought for today.

Praying for Drew After His Last Service at West Side

One Mark of a Great Leader

In the books “Built to Last” and “Good to Great,” Jim Collins and Jerry Porras poured through years of research and mountains of data from Stanford University Graduate School of Business to determine what factors went into lasting high-performance organizations. One of the key findings was that these businesses outlasted their leaders and that one mark of a great leader is that they replicate; they create other leaders.

The “Hit by a Bus” Test

One test that you can use to test the strength of your organization and leadership is the “hit by a bus” test. If [insert name of high performing individual or leader here] was hit by a bus today, would your organization survive and continue to thrive?

It's not fun to think about, but if you want to create a scalable business or organization that will survive for the long haul, that answer has to be yes. Military leaders are trained to think like this because losing a leader in war is a real possibility, but in the civilian world, most of us don't think about it much. Unfortunately, the reality is that everyone will leave the organization at some point; it's just a matter of when and how.

Leaving a Legacy

Drew, leaving our organization healthier than he found it, is the perfect example of how to leave a legacy. He created a team focused on the bigger picture, and as he said in his message, there's much more to the church's mission than Drew. He's leaving behind a thriving community that will continue long after he is gone as he moves on to recreate that success in another area.

If you want to be able to sell your business, do something else, or even take an extended vacation without continually looking at your phone, you must create the structure so that your business will remain standing long after you leave.

If you are leading an organization that has a solid mission that you believe in, you should be thinking about ensuring the success of the organization regardless of your presence.

I'm grateful that Drew and the rest of the leadership team were able to create that structure at West Side. I will miss him, but his legacy will live on here even as he creates a new legacy on the other side of the country.

Drew, if you're reading this, best of luck on your new adventure. I know you'll do well, and thanks for all you've done for the youth and people in our community. You'll be missed.

About the Author 

Don Smith

Happily married with five kids, Smith owns a technology company, is the founder of this site, has served on the board of directors for multiple companies, and loves playing soccer, hiking, and mentoring.

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