Leading While Departing

 Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The quote we posted via Twitter today (see Twitter feed on the far left), has me reflecting on leadership transitions I have witnessed and been part of during my career. There's one in particular that I've been thinking about because, in my opinion, it represents the best way to lead while departing an organization. I offer the following best practices from that transition.

First, know when it's time to move on. Leadership is a difficult business. We have to be aware of what the organization needs and whether we are able to bring the necessary knowledge, skills, and abilities to lead it. If we see that the organization needs something we can't offer, then we have to be willing to move on. Deciding that we aren't the right person to lead the organization into its future isn't failure; it's leadership in its purest form.

Second, don't check out before your final day. When we announce our intent to move on, it's tempting to neglect our responsibilities because we are mentally checked out. While there are certain aspects of leadership that may need to be put on hold during a time of transition (e.g. long-term strategic planning), the organization still needs a strong leader for its day-to-day operations. Until our successor has been identified, that's us!

Third, support your successor. We have to be willing and able to support our successor during the transition - in the way that he/she requests. We can't assume that our successor will work just like us, so we have to offer our support and help with the understanding that he/she will dictate the flow of communication and the on-going relationship. For some of us, this will be very difficult because we just know there are things they need that they haven't asked for, but let's give them time to figure that out.

Fourth, maintain your support for the organization while not overshadowing your successor. This may be the most difficult part of a leadership transition, but it's also the most important part. When we act as if we want nothing more to do with the organization we are departing, we invite scrutiny about the organization's health and our transition. When we stay too close to the organization, we inhibit the new leader in his/her efforts to become the primary face and voice of the organization. We must strike a good balance to ensure our constituents that the organization is in good shape and that its new leader is the right person to lead it into the future.

Here's to successful transitions!