Your Leadership Role Will End

Posted 05.12.2010

One thing you can count on if you’re in a leadership role is that it’s going to end someday. If you’re lucky, you’ll leave the role with tributes and parties in your honor. If you’re not so lucky, you may not have much time to make the transition from leader to follower. 

Such was the case this week with former British prime minister Gordon Brown. With not a lot of notice on Tuesday, he stepped in front of the cameras in front of 10 Downing Street to announce that, following the results of last week’s election, he was resigning and heading immediately to Buckingham Palace to recommend to the Queen that she ask David Cameron to be the new prime minister. Within a couple of hours, David Cameron was in and Gordon Brown was out.

You don’t have to be the head of a government to experience the phenomenon of losing power. A couple of weeks ago, for example, I had lunch with a former client who had announced a few weeks earlier that he was leaving his company at the end of the month to take a higher level position with a growing firm. He told me that he was surprised how much time he had on his hands once he announced that he was leaving. The meeting invitations stopped coming, the e-mail traffic slowed to a trickle and he wasn’t asked into conversations about the future. I told him not to take it personally; the same thing happened to me back in 2000 when I announced I was leaving a corporate VP job to start my coaching business a month later.  Suddenly, I had plenty of time for long lunches and morning workouts. People move on.

So, with the truth in mind that there will come a day when you have to turn over the reins to someone else, here are a few thoughts to keep you grounded in the meantime:

  • You are not your job. Your identity and worth extend far beyond whatever leadership role you’re temporarily playing.
  • Remember that everything changes. Nothing is permanent.
  • Do as much good as you can while you can.

What have you learned so far about keeping your perspective around the impermanence of leadership?