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Succession Planning – A Brain-Based Approach To Fostering Leadership Continuity

Written by: Maureen Chiana, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

Executive Contributor Maureen Chiana

An organisation is only as strong as its leadership. But what happens when a leader leaves due to retirement, a job transition, or unexpected circumstances? It's in these pivotal moments that the importance of effective succession planning becomes apparent.

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"Succession planning should be a priority for every leader. It ensures the long-term success of the organization and the development of future leaders." – John C. Maxwell

The brain, leadership, and succession planning

Every leader's decision, emotion, and action arise from complex neural processes. Neuroscience insights has shown how crucial leadership attributes such as decision-making, emotional intelligence, empathic understanding, and strategic thinking are intrinsically connected to these specific cognitive functions. Executive leadership must recognise and leverage these insights for succession planning, ensuring a smooth leadership transition and the continuity of these vital traits in the organisation's future leaders.

Succession planning: A necessity, not an option

Succession planning aims to ensure the continuity of leadership, preventing a disruptive vacuum and allowing for smooth operational transitions. Unfortunately, it is often an overlooked concept in many organisations, due to the absence of a well-structured plan, which can lead to unpleasant disruptions, decreased employee morale, reduced productivity, and a potential loss of direction. Despite its importance, many companies' succession planning initiatives are nonexistent. Performance appraisals, which could be used in identifying potential successors, are not often used effectively, leading to a considerable gap between the aspirations for effective succession planning and its actual practice.

In the hustle and bustle of daily corporate life, the urgent often takes precedence over the important, leading to strategic aspects like succession planning being put on the back burner. This lack of prioritisation or foresight results in succession activities being relegated to mere replacement exercises, failing to foster future-oriented leadership skills that are crucial for an organisation's growth and longevity.

The executive leadership must work to bridge this gap, taking responsibility to ensure succession planning is not side-lined. Identifying, nurturing, and developing future leaders is a necessary, ongoing process. It requires more than just filling vacant positions; but calls for a dedicated, strategic commitment to cultivate the leadership skills that the organisation requires for its future.

An unplanned leadership change can create uncertainty, triggering stress responses in the organisation's employees. This not only impacts productivity but also the overall health of the organisation.

Building resilience through succession planning

The human brain is naturally adaptable, capable of changing and growing even under stress. A solid succession plan develops and nurtures these adaptive capabilities in potential leaders, fostering resilience at an organisational level. It prepares individuals to step into leadership roles, ensuring the company can quickly adapt to changes.

Cultivating emotional intelligence in successors

Neuroscience has shown that emotional intelligence is essential for effective leadership. Leaders with high emotional intelligence are more able to understand and manage their own emotions and those of others to achieve organisational objectives.

Succession planning, therefore, should involve identifying and nurturing individuals with high emotional intelligence. These individuals can become capable successors through training and development, preserving emotional stability and fostering positive work environments during transitions.

Leadership transitions and change management

The human brain is wired to resist change. However, leadership transitions are all about change.

A gradual introduction of potential leaders to their future roles and responsibilities can mitigate resistance to change. Regular communication about the succession plan can reduce uncertainty and fear, ensuring a smoother transition when the time comes.


Effective succession planning is important to any organisation's strategy, ensuring leadership continuity and organisational resilience. By integrating a brain-based approach to succession planning, organisations can develop emotionally intelligent, strategically minded leaders, and a capability of managing change. This not only ensures leadership continuity but also contributes to the overall health and productivity of the organisation.

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Maureen Chiana Brainz Magazine

Maureen Chiana, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Maureen is the CEO and founder of The Mindsight Academy and host of Lead To Excel Podcast. She is a NeuroCoach, delivering Performance Enhancement Treatment [PET] by rewiring the brains of leaders to perform at their optimum.

She is a High Performance Coach, Corporate Consultant, Neuro-Leadership and Emotional Intelligence Specialist, an Award Winning Speaker, that leverages on Neuroscience insights of how the brain works, to empower leaders, executives, female founders and business owners to perform optimally and transform how they lead, work and live.

Maureen is passionate about helping people mitigate the biases that negatively affects them and their decisions, and her framework focuses on the Human Central Processing Unit – THE BRAIN, which helps leaders make better decisions ‒ especially under pressure ‒ thereby improving their overall or targeted performance.



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