Leadership of Knowing When to Hand It Off

Leadership is about knowing when to step forward and knowing when to step away. Many times in my career, I have had a chance to do both. In my experience, stepping forward is much easier than stepping back.

In every leadership role, there is a tipping point. Most leaders’ error is not seeing that tipping point and continuing to do what they’ve always done, not recognizing the signs of change, the symptoms of leadership shift.
Often leaders try to force their influence when their influence is waning.

It’s not their leadership isn’t essential, it’s just the organizational maturity has evolved, and its needs are different. This shift is not about execution or failure; it is the leader who has taken the organization as far as his/her influence can take them and is time to allow someone else to take them to the next level.

All leaders have a skill set and experiences that positioned them in a leadership role. And, this skill set helped them to take the organization to new levels of success. But a time comes when their skills or experiences are not appropriate for what the organization needs next.

This tipping point has nothing to do with the person’s impact and accomplishments; it has everything to do with what the organization needs next. It does not diminish the fact that the organization was built on the shoulders of great leaders that have moved on. It only means the organization evolved and has different needs.

How does a leader prepare him/herself for this fateful day?

1. Seek your successor – keep your eyes and ears open to candidates; internal or external
2. Be opportunistic in this search – you never know when they will show up but jump on them when they do
3. Be unselfish – succession isn’t about replacing you but about exceeding you; don’t be threatened by the next best leader
4. Share your learnings – progress only comes from creating a culture that allows “the new guy” to pick up where you left off

How do you recognize the “tipping point” for a leadership shift?

Look and listen. You will see it on your organizational impact. You will feel it in how your staff moves from following your lead to taking the helm. You will sense the organization is searching for more than you can provide.

Are these natural cues obvious?

No, it takes extraordinary self-awareness and courage to know you have taken an organization beyond you. That is a great compliment but also a harsh reality. Only great leaders take this lesson in stride; good leaders fall short of greatness because they “outlasted their impact or influence.”

When that tipping point is reached, is that the end of the story?

No, it is indeed a new chapter to the story. This leader now has a new set of experiences to take to the next organization; to take them to the next level and set them up for long-term sustainability.

Leadership isn’t about gathering followers; it’s about building new leaders that also pay it forward.

About rich@leading2leadership.com

Rich Jones is the Founder/Principal of Leading2Leadership LLC. Before starting his strategic planning agency, he spent over 20 years in leadership roles in the financial services sector. Before becoming an executive in the financial services sector, Rich was an entrepreneur, building and selling two businesses and working for early-stage start-up companies in executive roles in marketing, business development, and seeking investment partners. With more than three decades of experience, he brings innovative thought to companies and executives. Rich published “Leading2Leadership, a Situational Primer to Leadership Excellence.” The book is available on Amazon.com and was designed to be used as a book study for leadership development programs; it breaks leadership skills into manageable situations for discussion and reflection. Rich works with credit unions, CUSOs, and vendors, designing digital, data, culture, marketing, and branding transformation strategies. In 2014, Chosen as a Credit Union Rock Star by CU Magazine, and in 2018, Rich received the Lifetime Achievement Award from CUNA Marketing and Business Development Council. A Marine and graduate of Colorado State University, Jones shares his expertise at www.leading2leadership.com.


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