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Thomas Leads When He Is Not In Charge!

Updated: May 28


Thomas is third generation in the family business. He worked outside the company before being recruited by his father, Tommy. Tommy runs the family business as a "benevolent dictator."

Before joining the family in business, he learns skills and gains experience in leadership and people development in other places.

Thomas knows that the benevolent dictator leadership style of leading by fear, intimidation, and rewards must be broken for the family business to succeed over generations. It is a style that is often efficient for the short-term but must be changed before succession can occur.

Thomas is not in charge, but he begins the hard work of leading in his delegated areas of responsibility.

Leading when you are not in charge is difficult, but possible. It starts with earning the trust of those around you, particularly the CEO. Gaining that trust involves getting some wins under your belt. Talk is cheap; make it your goal to show fruitful results.

Talk less. Win more. Seeing is believing.

Start with making any areas in your responsibility excellent.

Are you in charge of the corner bathroom? Make that corner bathroom famous for its excellence!

Are you responsible for the closet in the far hall? Make that closet famous for its organization and management!

Thomas builds capacity in all the areas where he has responsibility and influence. Capacity building involves empowering people, providing them with the needed skills, and trusting them. He works hard to empower the right people and put them in the right spots, providing them with the skills they need.

It is not easy. In companies led by benevolent dictators, the gifts and talents of team members are often hidden because of the dictator's insecurities. But Thomas perseveres.

As his people thrive, his areas of responsibility explode in success. His success eventually gets noticed. In time, his accomplishments earn him credibility. With credibility comes more responsibility. More responsibility is his opportunity to build more capacity.

Thomas is impacting the entire company.

After decades of successful capacity building, Thomas accepts the invitation to become the CEO. It is a years-long process, but leading when he wasn't in charge has paid off.

Winning relay teams successfully pass the baton while running at full speed—no small thing. Thomas has broken the culture of the benevolent dictator. The company is running full-speed ahead, and he receives the baton.

Nothing is more critical for successful relay teams than for the baton to be received by the next relay runner while running at full speed.

Knowing that there is no success without a successor, Thomas immediately begins grooming his successor. While the business thrives under his leadership, he wastes no time planning to pass the baton to his successor. Choosing the fastest runner means passing over his own son to select his nephew for a five-year mentoring process.

70% of business transitions fail or get sold before the second generation of leadership ever gets a chance. Thomas has beaten the odds. The family business will now continue to make a profit, bless its community and advance its purpose.

Do you struggle to lead because you are not #1 in charge? Don't let that stop you. Get busy being fruitful, building people and capacity, and I promise you will get more responsibility and opportunity.

I guarantee it!

Harry T. Jones

P.S. Connect with me on LinkedIn, let me know how your succession planning is going.

*Like all my stories, Thomas' story is real; the names and some particulars were changed to protect the people involved.

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