A Vision for Third Turn Leaders
Where were you during the initial COVID shutdown? I was on an Idaho mountaintop - three months of porch-sitting, ruminating, pacing, long-distance cycling, praying, thinking, writing, conversing and testing. This season gave me time to explore my yearning to serve leaders moving into their Third Turns so that strong succession, meaningful legacy, and future value exist for the organizations they have served so long and well. Those months led to the launch of Maestro-level leaders, a resource for the accomplished executive leader in their Third Turn.
Successful executive leaders get so much right for so long - but too often get much wrong in the end.
The Economist recently ran a review on Changing Gear, (Headline Home, 2021) a book published this year on coping with end-of-career transition. As part of this, the authors Jan Hall and Jon Stokes describe the third stage of an executive's journey and provide case studies of those who managed this well alongside those who did not.
Just before that book, Peter Greer and Doug Fagerstrom published Succession, (Independently Published, 2020) again considering stories of leaders who could not let go alongside those who did. An audience for these books exists because so much value and so many careers are harmed when leaders ineptly hand off the baton. Successful executive leaders get so much right for so long - but too often get much wrong in the end. Why? Mostly because they thought they were exceptional.
Whether leading a for-profit or nonprofit, an executive's career in the end often unravels what was previously so well-woven. Avoiding disaster is possible when the leader embraces that they have not done this before, that they will do it just once (as far as their organization is concerned). That also requires that they recognize that future value, succession, and legacy depend upon learning, preparation and companionship just as their past turns have.
When an experienced leader fails to continue embracing their inexperience, leadership effectiveness and organizational capacity diminishes. This opens the door to ego clashes. Up-and-coming leaders who aspire to the role but are not being adequately mentored; the current executive who wants to ensure that the organization continues forward in its mission but struggles to build others up and put responsibility in their hands; board members who wish their involvement to mean something – healthy collaboration between them morphs into political competition.
We call the stages the Three Turns of an executive leader:
- Turn One – Leading self. This turn reaches down into a person’s depth as they build character, skill, and capacity.
- Turn Two – Leading an organization and others. This is a horizontal turn, broadening the self to invest in the wider scope of the organization, its people, and its systems.
- Turn Three – Leading toward legacy. This is an outward, forward-facing turn into the winds of uncertainty to develop future value that others ultimately guide.
Human and executive development are receiving renewed interest, whether we use the term stages, turns, levels or layers. These have no precise lines, but they map the journey toward wisdom and the awareness of how choices and actions bring meaning or harm to others.
Executive leaders in Turn One and Turn Two have many educational and peer-based choices for their development. Not so much in Turn Three: few places provide the comprehensive insight and companionship needed. We developed Maestro-level leaders as that comprehensive resource for Third Turn leaders, building on and complementary to a few other more specific resources such as life, estate, and succession planning, or company valuation.
Our objective is to see wise and accomplished leaders add to the common welfare of our world for as long as the Lord tarries. We envision prepared leaders who, with the Psalmist, yearn for a world where generations yet unborn have hope and will rise to give praise to their Creator.
For whom is Maestro-level leaders designed?
Maestro-level leaders is for senior executives and founders who intend to invest in getting this turn right, just as they have in the first two. Leaders who build excellent organizations and still see new opportunities or hurdles to cross increasingly spend time thinking and building in the possibility of success for their successors. They are aware this is the final testament to their leadership. Said more succinctly, if they do not get this right, they will only have managed (not led) the organization for a time and then failed. A leader's legacy is built on how they foster the success of their successors, more than anything else.
What happens in a Maestro-level leaders’ cohort?
Even in this one-of-a-kind space, each leader benefits from traveling companions.
Maestro-level leaders are on individual journeys, figuring out what future value, succession and legacy look like for their unique contexts. Even in this one-of-a-kind space, each leader benefits from traveling companions. A cohort travels together for four years of mapping out future value, building a flexible model, and living into it.
Each cohort of 6 to 12 individuals meets virtually one morning each month, checking in with each other and talking through their challenges. They meet individually with an Executive Advisor monthly to build in accountability and dive into their context and work. Each year also includes four brief retreats, in which members work more intensively on the next steps of their Maestro-level leader journeys.
What return on the investment can a cohort participant expect?
All organizations have a stated value. For most ministry organizations, value is often a specific measure of mission. Some might measure enrollment, others look at the number of people cared for, and so on. Future value is continued mission - and more of it.
An investment was made over time to build and maintain the current value of the leader's organization. In addition to money as value, any healthy organization wants to hold and strengthen organizational culture, meaningful employment, community relationships and marketplace reputation.
As leadership changes hands, it matters that this organizational value does not dip and that no multi-year malaise creeps in. Building toward future value at this point is a multi-year process, and it needs a seriously consistent investment of time, mental space, discipline and prudence - just as the founding and building of the organization did.
Let's say a $20 million ministry organization is led by a Founder/Executive Director/CEO three or more years away from a likely transition. What investment is prudent to make sure successors can slingshot into the future without stutter-stepping or dropping batons? The return on a Maestro-level investment is greater certainty that the company has a meaningful map toward future value, succession, and legacy, even with uncertainties and market and cultural instability.
Why the name Maestro-level leaders?
Choosing a name was difficult. There is a type of maturing leadership that sees systems and sub-systems, caring that they are healthy not just for now and the current value of the organization but for the future and the service of future generations. This a description of the Third Turn. Words like Maestro or Maister capture this ability to see, to orchestrate resources and systems, and to make good use of wisdom on behalf of the world at large. The world urgently needs more such leaders.
Christian Leadership Alliance teamed up with Maestro-level leaders for Maestro-level leader cohorts at a special price for Alliance members. The first is slated to get underway in the Fall of 2021.
If you are approaching or are in a Third Turn of executive leadership, or know someone who is, connect with us to begin a thoughtful, caring conversation about this season of executive leadership. In the meantime, the Third Turn Podcast with myself and co-host Kristin Evenson is available.
We deeply desire to hear any insight you might have for us as we bring love to Maestro-level leaders who love the leaders they are developing, and as they bring hope to the world.
Dr. Mark L. Vincent is Founder of Design Group International and the Society for Process Consulting. Maestro-level leaders is a Design Group International initiative. Mark is often found in meaningful conversation in the coffee shops in and around Boise, Idaho, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Reach Mark at: firstname.lastname@example.org