They say it’s the hardest job in politics. I suspect it’s harder than that.

I imagine that the role of an entire party in opposition is a difficult one. But the role of leader is really tough. Right now, the Nats need a refresh.

If you think for a moment about how a political party ends up in opposition, first you start off with your own views for the future of the country. You campaign on those. And you lose. As a result, your agenda is cast aside for at least three years. Instantly you have to change tack. You and your team need to focus on opposing someone else’s agenda.

At that point, the role of the leader and of the party change. They now have a different job to do. One which is the opposite of what they have been planning for many months and even years.

The difficulty of that shift is best summed up by the list of people who have had trouble making that transition.

Managing succession in political parties appears to be much more complex than managing succession in a corporate enterprise. In the corporate world, people sometimes get to a point where they’ve had enough and choose to resign. Alternatively, their employer makes the decision for them as they seek to improve the performance of the organisation.

But a political party will put all its energy (and often plenty of money) behind a leader and his or her chosen team. Typically, they only make the changes when it’s too late. The net outcome is that we often see two big mistakes in the succession management of political parties.

First, leaders hang on for too long. Strong leaders often encourage such blind loyalty that any potential successors are swiftly dealt with. As a result, there is often a leadership vacuum when a leader finally loses or steps down.

Second, while they are busy licking their wounds, those electing a new leader don’t seem to think too clearly about the challenges ahead. As a result, they will often choose the wrong person to take over.

Helen Clark was a fearsomely strong leader who left such a vacuum that her party went through five leadership changes in quick succession before settling on the current leader.

John Key was different, and unusually for politicians he broke the mould outlined above. He resigned early to give his successor time to prepare for an election. He also left behind a lineup of well-qualified successors. Names like English, Joyce, Adams, Kaye and others.

However, after the 2017 election, the National Party failed to follow the script. Despite polling a record vote, the Treasury benches were lost to the unanticipated Coalition.

The person who had led National to that point was told he no longer had the support of his team. The anointed and well-prepared successors were overlooked, too. And so began the musical chairs in the National Party leadership. Like Labour before them, they are now deep in their thus-far failed search for the right leader.