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should I stay or should I go now

In the last blog post, I talked about the fact that once a leader -- especially an executive director or CEO -- begins to consider leaving, it’s time for meaningful and timely succession planning. 

But I’ve also been asked, When should I consider leaving? Fair question.  

There are a lot of ways to answer this -- here are two:

  • When you can’t imagine the organization without you.

  • When you can’t imagine yourself without the organization. 


Let’s break these down. 

When you can’t imagine the organization without you.

It’s fine if others can’t picture the organization without you at the helm -- after all, you’re the face, the voice, maybe even the soul of the organization. But you are NOT the organization. 

And if you can’t envision a future in which the organization thrives without you, under fresh leadership, maybe even heading in unexpected directions, then it is time to go.

When you can’t imagine yourself without the organization. 

I know it’s contradictory -- as nonprofit leaders, we are expected, even needed, to give ourselves over to the organizations we head. To entwine our life with the life of the cause. But there’s a difference between passionate dedication to a cause and unhealthy enmeshment between an organization and its leader.

And if you can’t envision a future in which your life blossoms and expands beyond the desk where you now sit, then it is time to go. 

You are not married to this job. Leaving is not a divorce. The world is full of rich opportunities for you to make a difference in new and invigorating ways. Your organization must be able to survive without you. Start today.