I think that one of the key roles of a leader is to train, mentor and develop your successors. I believe that there are strong personal and organisational reasons for doing so. In professional firms I have seen too often practice areas and clients wither on the vine or move firm because this has not been properly done, a partner retires and nothing has been done to secure their sucession. I know that will seem mad to some but I have seen it happen all too often

Training others to do your current job is, in my opinion, reward in itself, but equally, as those around you can take on more, it frees you up to do other things, to win more clients, to develop other skills, or, in later life, perhaps take it a bit easier and do more directing and less doing! I have also found that reverse training can occur as well as those around you, usually younger, can introduce you to new technologies and ways of doing things.

Since the start of my career I have benefitted from this “apprenticeship” model. I have been fortunate to have worked for some excellent teachers and people who were prepared to share their experience with me. My personal growth has been entirely down to them and I recognise my bias in favour of it and I hope I have passed this on in turn. That is how I think the system should work.

In due course, introducing those around you to the client and getting the client comfortable with instructing them is also a part of this system. I take comfort in the fact that when I retired from my legal firm, the clients I looked after knew three or four other partners at the firm and, to my knowledge, none were lost to the firm.

I am sorry to say that not everyone adopts this philosophy. To be fair it does carry the possible risk that you could be usurped by your proteges, or they could leave and take the client with them. While those risks exist I feel the system I grew up with has the advantage of allowing you and your proteges to grow, both as people and financially, to share and develop the client base, to grow the firm. The loyalty and support you generate from this behaviouf can be immense and should outweigh the risk. Equally importantly, it is good for the client, providing a larger skill base and allowing those coming up through the client to relate to their opposite numbers in your organisation.

Accordingly, to create and sustain this system leaders, I believe, also have an obligation to ensure that the culture of the organisation and its remuneration system fosters the right behaviours. Ideally this will happen throughout a professional’s career, but especially in the last 5-10 years of professional life, if the issue of succession has not been addressed it must be and it is the CEO or Managing Partner role to do so.

To fail to do so lets down the client, the firm and all those in it.