7 Reasons Leaders Quit Your Organization

If your organization expects to grow, you’ll need to attract, develop and retain quality leaders.  One of the highest costs an organization has is replacing leaders, so ideally once a leader is hired, you’ll want to keep them.  I was reflecting recently on why leaders tend to leave an organization, apart from finding a better opportunity.  I don’t want to stand in the way of a leader leaving to an opportunity I can’t match, but I don’t want to lose them because of something the organization did wrong.

Here are 7 reasons leaders tend to quit your organization:

They couldn’t live out their personal vision – Leaders are internally driven. They have personal visions in addition to the vision of the organization.

They were told no too many times – Leaders have ideas they want to see implemented.

They felt unappreciated/never recognized for their abilities -– This goes for all team members.  People need to know that what they are offering is valued.

They were given no voice – Leaders want input into the direction of the organization.

They were left clueless as to the future of the organization – Leaders need inside information so they feel ownership in the overall direction of the organization.

Their vision doesn’t match the vision of the organization – This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but is best discovered before the leader joins the team.

They were micromanaged – Leaders don’t need managing as much as they need releasing.  Leaders need to help chart their future.

You can allow leaders to work for the good of the organization or stifle them, discourage them and spend valuable time and effort consistently replacing them.  If you want to keep leaders…let them lead!

What would you add to my list?

Which of these reasons would be/has been/is going to be your biggest reason for leaving an organization?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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66 thoughts on “7 Reasons Leaders Quit Your Organization

  1. Many will leave if they don't share the same vision as you say, and propose a different agenda that has no hope of being adopted. It is best to move on and better if identified early. Unfortunately, most do not leave quietly. The leader must constantly evaluate is he is on target and consistently sharing vision with other leaders, in a servant leadership modeled manner.

  2. They were told lies. Shall we not call it dishonesty? In many cases, self-serving leaders are complicit in ongoing efforts that lead to a pattern of fraudulent use of charitable contributions.
    This may include long range plans are NOT transparent. ………………………………..
    Misrepresetations and "empty clouds" obscuring long held hidden agendas.

  3. Ron,
    This was very accurate. I have been part of separate church plants and think this is a very valuable blog. Now, what I would love to see (and maybe you wrote a blog on this already) is 7 points on how to move from sabotage to success on this subject…I feel for leaders who had to step into messy situations and have to deal with the legacy pain on their teams…thanks for this blog, it got my wheels turning.

  4. Ron, this is a great post! I have recently struggled over a decision to step down from a pastoral leadership position in our church because the Sr. Pastor would not deal with serious lifestyle issues with other members of staff (living with someone out of wedlock, active drug abuse/addiction) and actually promoted them into higher places of leadership. Not being a person of Godly integrity – says what he thinks everyone wants to hear and then does the opposite of what he commits to. I have a hard time being able to trust a Sr. Pastor that has an "it's all about me" attitude and will sacrifice the good of the "sheep" to keep his position. We have lost several key lay leaders in the past week because of the issues spoken of in this blog section! Don't know how the church will survive this.

  5. Ron, this is a great post. Too often we believe that the leaders in our midst will always be there, and when they go we are stunned. However, if more leaders would be attentive to even 4 of the above mentioned 7 things; they would find their leaders sticking around for the long term. Thanks Ron!

    • Thanks Michael. I think you are right…we may not excel at all of them, but we can certainly pick some and improve upon them.

    • A vision is just an attempt to capture what you are trying to accomplish with your ministry/mission. So you just want to as short and simple as possible write out what you want to accomplish. As a church, our vision is to "encourage growing followers of Jesus Christ".

      Just decide what you want to do…then say it…

      Hope that helps.

  6. Ron, you hit the nail on the head. We recently agonized over leaving a church because of the first six things on your list. Recently found your blog and LOVE what you are writing about. Thanks so much for great posts that have already helped me grow as a leader.

  7. Great stuff Ron! I might also add not being able to use their full giftedness. Many times great leaders are mult-gifted but pigeon-holed into a narrow job description. Sometimes the best person to speak into an issue is in a position not directly related to the position. Our current Worship Pastor was the Chief Strategy Officer of a public software company, a former CIO of a 500MM company and was on the covers of computer magazines. He has never been asked his opinion on issues related to IT or management systems. We have multiple examples of this sort of thing. It's like once you get here, they forget everything about your past. Strange.

    • That's good. I agree completely. People want to know they are valuable and part of the plan. They want their opinions to count…and they want to use the gifts, abilities and experiences God has given them. Thanks!

  8. What about simply being underpaid? An organization could do all of those things you listed really well. But if they don’t pay well enough to make ends meat, or if the pay is greatly under the industry standard, then the leader may bolt just as well for someone else who offers the same and pays well.

    • those who come to be paid well, stay to be paid well.
      Here is the challenge: Leadership development vs. Priestcraft: i.e. staying only to be paid well.

      Many "pastors and leaders" are not willing to work together in God's church. Too many behave like Markist collectivists. They carefully plan the offering time for an effective collection. Later, they return to collect.

  9. Very good observations. Another reason is when you have the right people in the wrong place (or position). This frustrates those near them who ARE in the right place. It runs them away. Everyone suffers, the right person in the wrong place, the person who was in the right place (who left or will be leaving soon) and the entire organization which never progresses. Have I got some stories to share.

  10. Ron, I would add that they discovered that they couldn't follow the leadership of the point leader. That's a broad idea. It could be an issue of trust, vision alignment, etc. The key in this kind of situation for church leaders is to make the departure smooth in order to preserve the highest level of unity & momentum possible in the ministry.

  11. A very important thing to me is that the leader must have sone type of relationship with their staff. There needs to be a mentoring relationship. If there isn’t some time spent together outside of the church, you can’t really know where the staff is at in their lives.

  12. Love this post! I think the best point is to not stifle leaders. Let them spread their wings and your organization will be amazed at what the person can accomplish! Leaders need creative license and flexibility to grow and achieve.

  13. I've left a lot of groups for the reasons you have listed here. The worst with me was the continual "no" to ideas. When it gets made clear that my views aren't being seriously considered and even great ideas brought to them with all details done and it's ready to go and you're still told "no" then you just start to look for places where you can stretch and grow. The worst part? The worst places for this in my life were "Christian" places.

  14. Sometimes leaders want to be the head leader, don’t want to be led by another and in turn leave with a negative view of the org they helped build. But in the end they simply were not ok w not being THE leader. I’ve felt the pain of this but in the end it was ultimately better for the org as a whole, though painful to lose a gifted leader that was given total freedom to run.

  15. Perhaps they were not befriended from within the organization. Not in a baby-sitting way – but sometimes there has to be "fun" at work to build the synergy when we are all in the trenches.

  16. Hearing no over and over…and the lack of organizational vision would be on the top of my personal list to move on to better opportunities. However, all 7 resonate deep within my heart.

  17. Ron, this goes along with being micro-managed yet has a spin. I've seen orginizations where the boss, pastor, or manager have stated "I don't micro-manage" only for the employee to find out his definition and your definition of micro-manage are quite different!

    They are recruited as a leader but transitioned into a worker – I have seen instances where people have been hired to head some department or brought on to lead a program only to become a "glorified gopher." I'm not suggesting leaders shouldn't have to do lower level tasks. But when the employer presents a three or four tiered structure yet leads and manages like a two-tiered structure those leaders (if higher level leaders) will soon remove themselves from that position.

    • Amen, and rightly so. sooner the better!

      Here is the challenge: Leadership development vs. Priestcraft.
      Sadly, like the AWOL Democrats from WI,
      Many "pastors and leaders" are not willing to carry out their fiduciary responsibilities.
      Too many reluctantly attend without any commitment to real leadership development.

  18. Resigned in the wake of lies and actions on the part of the pillars of the church that made me wonder if there was ever any spiritual maturity. Struggled for two years trying to find sense in my fate (still no real answer there) and feelings of failure (still have those feelings). Still wonder how these people can justify themselves and keep on doing 'church' when they are clearly incapable of following basic Christian commandments like 'love' and 'honesty'. Living and learning from the experience, never deserted by God, always knowing that I am loved by Jesus and other important people in my life, Seeing the kingdom coming in other areas and enjoying the journey of discovery. Making the most of being free to be the person that God loves, warts and all. Thanks for the blog Ron, there is life after failed church leadership.

    • Thanks Martin. I am working on a couple of other websites I own, (hurtingpastors.org and ministrymarriage.net) for those exact reasons. There is life after failed church leadership….or failed church leader!

    • Thanks for sharing. Your conclusion ("there is life after failed church leadership") is pretty applicable to many other similar kinds of situations. Maybe just substitute "church leadership" with something else. A light at the end of the tunnel, it seems. Glad that your faith and relationship with God survived the incident. It's true that sometimes it becomes necessary to just walk away from the situation, but you're living proof that it doesn't have to be the end of the road because while men may fail us, God won't. Press on, brother. You're in good hands.

  19. Welcomed like a leader, treated like a spare part, left with a lesson learned, a shattered spirit, and a broken heart. Just reading on churchabuse.com how poor leadership creates spiritual abuse but my experience was as a leader who was invited enthusiastically to lead a church that had had the same leader for nineteen years. Discovered that they did not know what they wanted and soon found that whatever that was it wasn't me. Sought to work through the crisis by listening and respecting the various views. Brought in the denomination who supported the church but neglected the leader. Heard no to anything I put forward and had no influence over the direction the power base was taking.

  20. Ron – Great post. I believe that a lack of appreciation/recognition is a primary driver of dissatisfaction in the workplace. I think the mistake we make with our leaders is that we assume that they all have sufficient internal motivation/drive (and they have a lot) so as not to need our appreciation/motivation/recognition. That’s a fallacy.

    Thanks for sharing this list.

  21. Thanks for posting this Ron, it is so true. While it is just as true for the Corporate side, it is even more so true for volunteer groups.

    In connection with #5 and #6, I think that you must be sure that the Leader can see how his/her vision is a part of the Organizations overall vision. Especially in a volunteer setting, a Leader must be able to see how their vision and goals will be met along with those of the Organization.
    Twitter: Ron_Lane