Beginning with President Reagan, each U.S. President has left a private letter in the Oval Office for the incoming President on inauguration day. In the Leadership and Coaching course that we’re teaching, a student wrote an interesting post integrating this idea with organizational leadership. Here is the post, shared with permission:
Something the other day reminded me of the White House tradition of outgoing presidents leaving a letter in the oval office for their successor. As we lead from any level in an organization, I had to ask myself: What would this tradition look like at other levels of leadership? What would I write and leave behind for somebody taking over my role?
It didn’t take long to come up with an answer – now that I’ve thought of it, I can’t “not” do it. So, today I will begin a “working” letter that I will keep updated until I have the opportunity to pass it on. I want to leave behind a narrative about each member of my team … with a twist. It’s going to be 100% positive. Strengths only. I want to highlight successes, great moments, memories, and wins that each person has been a part of. Go to him for this, and go to her for that. I want any future leader of my team to have a feel for what is best about each person.
As far as the negatives and weaknesses, that can and will surface on its own energy (not to mention personnel records). I prefer that anyone taking my role discover those attributes without my input and bias. Who knows, maybe in a transition some leaves will be turned. Why bring up attributes that have potentially met their end?
What’s in your letter to your successor?