The Leadership Exit
Making the decision to leave is never easy.
It’s easily doubled when you’re the Leader of a team because not only are you now leaving an organization, you’re now leaving a group of people that you have invested an incredible amount of energy into their own personal and team growth and development that to leave feels like betrayal.
They bought into the story.
They listened to everything you had to say.
They jumped higher than you asked.
And now you are leaving them. Or rather that’s what you’re made to feel like when you make this hard decision to do so.
“You’re abandoning us”
“You’re leaving us behind”
“Why aren’t you taking us with you”
“How could you?”
There are many emotions at play here when you decide to leave and most are coming at you.
Let’s dissect a few of the most prominent ones here.
You’re Not Leaving Your Team
It’s time for you to move on to new challenges and opportunities. Leading a team is like being a parent, there is a moment when you know it’s time to let your kids go, spread their wings and start leading themselves.
Every Leader knows when they’ve hit this point with a team – “I’ve done enough here and what comes next will only be incremental. You need more, you need a different approach, you need someone else.”. This isn’t an easy realization for a leader to come to, but it’s one that is realized from the view that they want their team to continue to grow, become stronger, better and share that wisdom with others.
When the Leader’s involvement is only going to result in incremental returns, it’s time for them to make the exit.
It’s Not a Betrayal
And if your team thinks it is, then you should have left much sooner. Your team is now dependent on you for more than you had originally hoped and they are fearful that without you, they will fall apart.
Fear is a powerful emotion and a Leader should never stay if the team is fearful they cannot survive without them (the Leader). If this is the case, then you haven’t done the proper work in preparing your exit strategy and ensuring they are setup for success for when you leave. A well organized team should be able to survive in the short-term without their Leader and keep things going through what has been taught to them.
Don’t fall into the trap of being made to feel you are disloyal or have betrayed your team, you are giving them the opportunity to grow and develop.
The Bought Into You
Your team bought into your plan, they executed and delivered on what you asked them to do, what you inspired and motivated them to do, what they raised up their own games to do.
This isn’t a bait and switch or a pulling of the rug from underneath their feet, this is your team trusting you to lead them, you leading them and no matter where you are in the delivery of your plan, they are being successful and continue and will continue to be successful.
What everyone tends to forget when you are leading a team or a project is that this IS THE ONLY team and/or project that you will EVER lead.
But it isn’t and will never be and for you to continue growing, you will need to work with different people, validate different approaches with a new group of people.
In the end, you might end up working with some or all of these people and that is the best experience because not only did they buy into you at this moment, but they are ready to do it again, this time without having to go through all the Interviewing and Identifying and get right to Delivering.
Don’t fall into the trap of changing your mind about leaving because your team doesn’t want you to leave.
Focus your energies on setting them up to take over from you with the remaining time that you are working them. Over that period of time, their emotions will subside and will turn to being happy, excited and proud of the tough decision you’ve made. You’ll inevitably have many one-on-one conversations that will turn out to be some of the most encouraging conversations you or they have had during your tenure, enjoy them and know that you’re making the right decision.
But don’t change your mind, over time you will resent the decision you made and depending on your team, their attitudes might change or shift as they realize you will always be there to catch them if anything goes wrong and they’ll slowly start to question what your level of commitment truly is when faced with tough decisions.