Do You Think You Are Indispensable?

I have been reading a biography of the late Penn State football coach Joe Paterno.  I grew up thinking there was no one greater than Coach Paterno.  Of course he had a long and storied career.    But, he could never see the Penn State football program being turned over to someone else.  He could never accept that anyone else could do what he could do.  Most know the tragic ending to Paterno’s career.  A longtime assistant was found to have committed horrible crimes against children.  It was charged that Paterno knew or should have known what happened.  It was charged that he should have done more.  He was ultimately fired after 40+ years as the head coach.  He died shortly thereafter of lung cancer.  I don’t know the answer to the charges against Paterno.  I think life is often too complex for simple answers. I thought this story taught a powerful lesson, however, in terms of succession planning.  As the saying goes: “The graveyards are full of indispensable men.”  As a leader of your family business you have to accept that the time will come for you to step down.  You have to be willing to see and help someone new take over the business and build on what you have created.  I don’t mean to suggest that a failure to plan will result in the atrocities that occurred at the hands of this assistant coach. But, a failure to plan and prepare can be the difference between a smooth landing or a rough one.