All leaders will leave, the question is how

“Should I stay, or should I go?” Maybe you’re starting to think, what’s next? Or maybe you already know that you’re on your way out. You  might also be happy where you are, and you want to stay put. But nobody stays forever.

“I find that I run into a lot of people in leadership positions and somehow they have never figured out they are going to leave. They think they are permanent forever and ever”, says leadership expert John Maxwell.

As I reflect on my own transitions, I can think of times it went really well. I can also think of one particular transition when I took the ‘high road’: “I shouldn’t be involved in who should come in after me, it’s someone else’s responsibility.” With hindsight,  I wish I hadn’t taken that approach.

What I didn’t understand at that time was that the ability to take whatever you are doing right now and successfully hand it over to somebody else, so they can be equally or even more successful than you’ve been, is a skill that needs to be learnt. Transitions take a lot of thinking, a lot of planning. All in all, a lot of time. You also need a lot of maturity in the process, to make it work.

Transitions can be emotional. As human beings we are largely driven by our emotions, which  are constantly in flux, often without us realizing.

When transitioning, focus on your values, rather than the circumstances of the transition.

It will be a great opportunity for personal growth, and  for you to align your actions to your values, despite your emotions. Ask yourself what can you do to allow somebody else to succeed you, and potentially be even more successful than you were.

Independently of whether you are transitioning or not, a good leader positions the people in their  organization to do great things without them. Not with you, not for you, but without you. So from that perspective, whether you’re staying or going, you need to be constantly building transition skills.

Transitions are like chapters in our lives. I believe the power to write a new story  – a great story – is always within our reach. Even in adverse circumstances, if you transition properly, you’ll be respected for it. Transitions are essential building blocks of our reputation.

Choose to grow, and let go. Let the transition inside you determine how you will handle the transition on the outside.

In my next article I will share some practical steps on how to transition well.

1 reply
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