On July 25th, Dr. Larry McEvoy and I had the privilege of presenting the above topic to a room filled with leaders, recruiters, and consultants attending the American Hospital Association 2019 Leadership Summit in San Diego.  We provided a case study that illustrated the application of a different paradigm in addressing succession planning. What the audience most appreciated were the five key shifts necessary to leverage systemic leadership capacity that drives results while fostering better engagement and well-being.  They are as follows: 

  1. “Bet on the herd; not the horse.” Paradigm shift from heroic leader with development of a select few, to increasing the thinking capacity of many leaders.  Focus on the collective rather than individual leadership. 
  1. Create deep thinkers who are comfortable with the unknown and who create developer leaders. These leaders see “scaling leadership” as a key accountability area for their role.  Development is not a “nice to have.” It’s an intentional, systemic priority with frequent and varied feedback loops.
  1. Cascading both/and—polarity thinking along with problem-oriented thinking (either/or): Leaders are often promoted for their problem-solving ability.  Unfortunately, all the simple problems have been solved and healthcare is now dealing with complex issues that are interdependent.  This requires the ability to see and effectively leverage the larger system of polarities: mission and margin; tactical and strategic; centralized and decentralized; continuity and transformation.  Cascading a system’s capacity to manage paradox increases the system’s ability to compete in this complex world.
  1. Providing strategic simulation experiences that intentionally take the leaders out of their comfort zones; pairs them with leaders with whom they share different perspectives and apply time constraints that simulate the pressures CEOs face in dealing with real environmental challenges. This exercise provided a real-world “heat” experience that included their presenting to a mock board with challenging questions a CEO would experience from the board.
  1. Be a lens, not a filter: Shifting from silo’d selection and placement of CEO to an integrated process that proactively identifies development needs and structured methods to meet those needs post CEO hire.  The goal of the succession/ development efforts being stabilization of the entire system during times of transition as compared with filling a given role.

Click here to download a copy of our presentation. We’d love to hear from you! 



Anderson, Robert, and William Adams.  Scaling Leadership: Building Organization Capability and Capacity to Create Outcomes that Matter Most.  Hoboken, NJ: Wiley and Sons, Inc., 2019 

Anderson, Robert, and William Adams. Mastering Leadership: an Integrated Framework for Breakthrough Performance and Extraordinary Business Results. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley and Sons, Inc., 2016

Johnson, Barry. Polarity Management: Identifying and Managing Unsolvable Problems.  Amherst, MA: HRD Press, Inc. 1996

Petrie, Nick. The How To of Vertical Leadership Development Part II:  30 Experts; 3 Conditions and 15 approaches. Colorado Springs, CO: The Center for Creative Leadership, 2015 (http://tinyurl.com/jrxuvgx)