DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES—I have noticed a strange phenomenon in churches and businesses regarding leadership transitions. Too often otherwise great and successful leaders fail at transitioning the reigns to the next generation. Here are three important questions to ponder for any leader who wants to successfully pass the leadership baton.

1. What? 
The most important part of leadership transitions, and the most ignored, is defining exactly what the baton is. Much time and many books have been dedicated to baton-passing succession plans. Future leaders have been prepared and mentored. The next leaders are ready to receive the baton and run the race, but have we clearly defined which baton we are passing? Usually not. Here’s a quick description of the “baton” that current church and ministry leaders must pass to next-generation leaders.

-The Gospel. Paul felt compelled to constantly remind people of the gospel.
-Mission. It must be clearly written on the wall and on the heart.
-Values. Our daily guideline and plumb line for all we do.
-Culture. Corporate culture is the result of consistent mission and values.

2. Who?
Leadership is a relay race, not an individual sprint. Therefore we can’t simply hand the baton to some random bystander. We must clearly identify the next runner. Not the expert baton critic. Not the baton scholar. Not the baton collector. Not the person who loves batons. We must identify the next RUNNER. Batons should only be passed to runners.

3. When?

Timing can make or break a good succession plan. There are good times and bad times to pass the baton. I have always tried to pass leadership batons during times of upward momentum. That is probably why most of my leadership transitions have been successful. Momentum can cover a multitude of young leadership mistakes. Sometimes leadership batons have to be passed during downtimes. This is difficult, but not impossible. If we get the who and the what right, then we can survive a less-than-perfect when.