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Louise Gelsthorpe

Power Hour


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Succession Planning for Time Lords


So… Matt Smith has announced he’s leaving Dr Who. I’m sorry to hear that, but not as devastated as when I heard David Tennant was leaving, but NOT for the reasons you may think. I thought David Tennant was an excellent Dr Who, and couldn’t imagine anyone being as good. However, by the third episode, Matt Smith had completely won me over, and he has been just as worthy of the role. So, the reason I’m not so bothered is that clearly the creators of Dr Who have been succession planning, and with some success, probably using some sort of competency framework (although of course, they wouldn’t call it that!).

Good Time Lords must display the following common leadership competencies:

·         Creativity and innovation – The Doctor must be able to come up with novel solutions to unique problems.

·         Negotiation skills – The Doctor refuses to carry a lethal weapon, so negotiation skills are essential to get him out of all the tight spots he finds himself in.

·         Decision-Making and Prioritising – Often caught between a rock and a hard place, the doctor must quickly take stock of the situation and decide what needs to be done, and what doesn’t.

·         Teamwork and Relationship Management – A good Time Lord travels with companions for good reason: he values the perspective and input of others, and he needs other people to ‘spark’ off. There is also a clear need to build alliances across worlds and timelines

·         Delegation – Although the Doctor has natural authority, he doesn’t NEED to be the hero…if someone can do something better than he can, then he’s happy to delegate. Remember how Rory and his Dad flew the Dinosaur spaceship? Clara had to go into the timeline in the last episode, NOT the Doctor… she would have a more positive effect.

·         Bravery – The Doctor is brave and is willing to take a calculated risk without any guarantees. He trusts his own judgement and that of his team.

·         Loyalty – The Doctor is fiercely loyal: He expects a lot of his companions and allies, but will defend them to the end…as any good leader would.

·         Time Management – Well…actually, this isn’t applicable if you are a Time Lord!

Of course, the actor selected to take over the iconic role must be able to demonstrate ALL of these characteristics, whilst adding his (or her) own personality to the character.

The same is true of leaders in organisations…the ‘core’ of what makes them great needs to be repeated, remain solid and consistent, no matter who takes over a senior position. Organisations also need to adapt and evolve, but the two are not mutually exclusive. When succession planning in any organisation, we need to be clear about WHAT good leaders do, and make sure the next person developed to fill that role can do the same things…but accept that HOW they do them, may be different.

And as for the next Dr Who?... Personally, I’d love to see Adrian Lester in the role. He can play all of the ‘competences’ above, but will do it in his own way. And that’s how we like our Doctors AND our leaders…different, but somehow familiar.

Louise at Power Hour Bite-Size Training

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Louise Gelsthorpe


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