When I worked as a manager for Starbucks, I was always thinking about the next manager on duty. I wanted to make sure I was “setting them up for success.” That meant making sure the bar was clean, the dishes were put away, the café was tidy, the milk was stocked, the espresso was ready to go, appropriate breaks were given, and, as much as I could help it, morale was high. I wanted the next manager to have greatest chance of succeeding on their upcoming shift. If I did not prepare for this, and work hard to “set them up for success,” I considered my job a failure for that day. Beyond the day-to-day work, I was also striving to train future leaders to do what I did at the company, thus “setting them up for success” in their future with the company.
This is important in leadership. I see this played out in the relationship that Moses had with Joshua. He trained Joshua to be a leader once he was gone. He knew that one day Joshua would be given the lead role, because God had promised Moses he would not enter the promised land. Therefore, Moses worked hard to train Joshua and “set him up for success.” Often, the thought is that the successor of a highly successful leader is a fall-guy. I have seen that happen in churches, where the pastor after the long-term pastor is doomed for failure, and has trouble even getting off of the ground. If the rule of the fall-guy always held true, shouldn’t it have held true for Moses? After all, Moses was considered the greatest prophet of his day! (Deuteronomy 34:10) But Moses had his eyes on the bigger picture. “And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, FOR Moses had laid his hands on him.” (Deuteronomy 34:9) You see, Moses was not content investing only in his own leadership. He invested in the next generation as well. The people responded to Joshua, as soon as he had been given leadership, like this: “All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. Just as we obeyed Moses in all things, so will we obey you.” Joshua was set up for success (though it quickly became his responsibility to carry through with the task of leadership: “Only may the Lord your God be with you, as He was with Moses!”) because Moses intentionally took steps to develop him.
How are you setting up others for success in your absence, both in the short-term and in the long-term? Are you controlling the mission, vision, and operation of your organization so tightly that you choke out others?
How are you preparing your children to be a success? What about your co-workers? Your band members? Those in your small group? Are you preparing them to lead? Are you getting them ready for the task that God has called them to do? Or are you so task-oriented that you forget about the bigger picture, and forget that one day you will be gone?