Teammates, fans, and management were in tears of appreciation and adoration at his press conference. This is truly a valued leader to that organization.

This led me to ponder retirement from the view of those in the talent pipeline. How do people within an organization react where their respected and esteemed leader decides to retire, especially when that leader is the face of the company, the brand, the franchise?

There are many who mourn the loss of the leader and wonder how life will go on after they leave. As a Green Bay Packer fan, we are still wondering about life after Brett Favre, even after his successor has been on the job and functioning quite well for more than a year. GE stockholders wondered who would ever live up to the reputation and legacy of their beloved Jack Welch. Anne Mulcahy retired a couple of weeks ago after leading Xerox in a multi-billion dollar and substantial brand image turn-around the past nine years (in addition to being an icon for demonstrating how to effectively break the glass ceiling).

But what about those in the pipe ready to start demonstrating their legacy? Aaron Rogers held a clipboard for three years waiting to show that he was worthy to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. Jeffrey Immelt held and demonstrated excellence in numerous global leadership positions for almost 20 years before being given the CEO reins. Ursula Burns, I imagine, is eager to demonstrate that she can be the role model for African-American female leaders and as exemplary a CEO as Anne Mulcahy.

In succession management, we often talk about what does a person needs to get to the next “level”  without acknowledging that a key criterion is the level needs to be open. The person above you needs to leave, whether by their own promotion, a lateral move, or retirement. So if you are the Aaron, Jeffrey, or Ursula of your organization, is it okay to be happy for the opportunity to shine? The chance to assume the next level (whatever that level may be for you)?


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