Creative LeadershipStrategy & Marketing

The Tragedy of Second Generation Failure

It’s been reported that 70% of second generation businesses fail in America. That made me think of nonprofits, churches, and ministries in the same light. Is it true of those organizations as well? Over the years, I’ve consulted on numerous leadership transitions of some of the highest profile pastors and Christian leaders in America and I have to report that very few go well.

It’s really no surprise that the passion, drive, creativity, and sheer will that it takes to launch a great organization is difficult to duplicate in a second generation. Plus, in some cases, the second generation grew up in an atmosphere of affluence and entitlement because of the first generation’s success, so they often lack the hunger to keep pushing forward in spite of the inevitable challenges.

The reasons are varied. Some have to do with the first generation leader not letting go, or sometimes the second generation leader doesn’t have the leadership chops, and sometimes the problem is the senior team that surrounds the leader.

Whatever it is at a particular organization, the tragedy is that it happens at all. In light of how many transitions fail, and how many churches, ministries, and nonprofit are crippled or collapse as a result, this should be a priority in the Christian community.

Let’s wake up. Here’s the rule: If you’re involved in a church, ministry, or nonprofit, it’s never to early to start thinking about the next generation leader.

Good transitions take time and they don’t happen by accident.

I’d be curious to know your experience. For those readers who have been involved in church or ministry transitions, without naming names, was it a good experience or bad experience?

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  1. Agreed! Many organizations, both in and out of the church, don’t have a succession plan. I’m not referring to who will replace the senior leader/boss and when, but a plan that just acknowledges that there will come a time when the leader dies/retires and now what? Many churches and companies won’t even acknowledge that the leader will die or move on. Many leaders will never acknowledge that they will die and there will be no plan to what will happen next. I’ve seen too many churches like than and have experienced it inside of my family as well.

  2. Good article Phil! A lot of institutions do not groom the next generation to take over after they retired or die. I have known it too well with Baby Boomers didn’t groomed the Gen X’ers to take over. Gen X’ers and Millenniumals opted to start their own businesses and nonprofits.

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