I am frequently contacted when someone is debating the right time to leave a leadership position. I once wrote 10 Scenarios to Determine If It’s Time to Quit. It’s still one of my most requested blog topics. Deciding when it is time to leave a leadership position is one of the hardest decisions a leader makes.
Thankfully, there are still leaders with a sense of loyalty, who want to do the right thing, and they simply do not know how or when they should leave. If you want to see long term success in the place where you lead, you need long-term tenure.
We all love hearing how a church planter carried the church from infancy of a few core people in a room to the maturity of a healthy, established church. I am always impressed to hear of a long term pastorates. Some of the most successful churches have the longest serving pastors. The healthiest way, organizationally speaking, is to have one long-term leader, who goes through seasons with the organizations, who carries the vision forward over a long span of time.
But, that’s not the calling of every leader. And, there’s no shame in that.
Please understand, this is not a post encouraging anyone to leave their position. It’s not a post that indicates I’m leaving mine. (Please read that last line again if you’re in my church.) But, this is a post intended to help a leader who may be struggling, feeling it’s time to move on, but can’t bring themselves to make the hard decision. I’ve spoken with pastors who feel they’ve done all they can do. They’ve prayed and prayed about it and don’t even sense God telling them they have to stay, may even feel a sense of release, but their sense of loyalty keeps them from even entertaining the idea. In the meantime, the longer they do stay the more frustrated they become and the church starts to feel it.
And, that’s why I write this reminder.
Some leaders are only there for a season. A unique season. A special season, reserved for a designed purpose. It’s helpful when a leader can recognize or discern a seasonal assignment.
Here are a few examples:
Some leaders get things started – They are great starters, but horrible maintainers. They do best when they are allowed to begin something for someone else to carry forward. I have a friend who is a serial entrepreneur. He’s great at getting healthy organizations started, but lock him into somewhere for very long and he will frustrate a lot of people. Including himself.
Some leaders guide the organization through transition – These leaders can handle the tough times. They help once successful organizations start again. They love changing things. When things “settle” they are ready for a new challenge. I have another friend who in his career has helped several businesses recover from near disaster. He moves in, takes over, rebuilds confidence in leadership, provides a sense of direction and momentum, then gradually yields control to others.
Some leaders close things out graciously – This has to be one of the toughest assignments in leadership, but there are leaders who are especially gifted in helping things come to an end. When I was in retail, there were some store closing experts. Many times a new store was opening across town and one store, perhaps in an older, more established part of town, was closing to make room for the new. That’s never popular, but these leaders knew how to come in, evaluate, assess what could be salvaged, help the employees transition, and leave the area as painlessly as possible, so the excitement for the new would not be lost in mourning what would be gone. They were seasonal experts in leadership. (Frankly, for this last example, although this is the subject for another post — and this sentence only opens the can of worms — the church needs some of these leaders.)
Granted, each of these scenarios can often find new leadership positions within the same organization, but the key understanding is that they are leaders for a season. An assignment. A specific need. When the need is met the season often has to change.
If a leader does what he or she has been called to do, there is no shame in doing ONLY what the leader was called to do. Recognizing that and discerning it helps leaders and the organizations they lead to be healthier.
Have you ever been the leader for a season?