How to Transition Well in Leadership

How to Transition Well In Leadership

When a leader steps down, there are two things to be concerned with: the health of the leader and the health of the group. Life happens, seasons end, people move. Serving as a leader will have a start date and an end date. We will all eventually have a ‘last night’ as leaders. The question is not if you’ll transition in your current leadership role, but when.

As leaders, we should all plan for that moment well.

This means not only leading with integrity, but transitioning with integrity, keeping your character in tact.

Henry Cloud says: “Character transcends gifts and the context of the expression of those gifts. We need our gifts, but without wholeness of character—integrity we are calling it—our gifts will become unusable…
Disfunction is: when an effort toward making something better makes it worse.”

Too many leaders, in both church and business, step down from leadership too soon, too impulsively and as a result, undo much of the work they had done during their time as leaders. Not just their work…their leadership influence did as well. So in order to transition well, there must be planning and intentionality.

Here are 3 Steps to transition well: 

1. Be a leader developer
If you are not developing leaders, your transition will be stressful and difficult, for you and for the people you’re leading. Refusing to raise up leaders is shortsighted and selfish, aiming only to see today and not tomorrow, focused only on your impact and not others.

Here’s a secret to lasting leadership: Your greatest impact as a leader is through raising up other leaders.

What’s better? Leading a group faithfully for two years or leading a group that shares ownership and over time produces two more groups that triples the impact of the single group? This is why I believe leadership development is the most exciting part about leading. Getting to see God do through others more than I could accomplish in myself.

Leadership Development not only shares in the mission today, it plans for the mission tomorrow. The question is not if you’ll transition in your current leadership role, but when.

2. Make a strategy
This strategy should begin in prayer, asking God for wisdom and guidance if he’s led you to a point of transition. Next step is planning. Here are a few tips:

  • Set a healthy time frame (i.e., I want to transition by this date)
  • Find a leader, raise them up:
    • Have a one-on-one conversation, be vulnerable and honest about where you think things are headed and make an honest ask: Are you interested in leading in this next season?
  • Create a transition plan including:
    • Beginning to share your platform (lead less)
    • Pass off responsibility to others
    • Work yourself out of a job by sharing ownership
    • Set the group to be in a healthier place than when you found it
  • Stay after the transition
    • At least for a few weeks. This gives you time to offer support, encouragement and coaching to the new leader, which will also infuse the group with a sense of trust for the new leader and make the overall transition smoother

3. Communicate
If you’re leading a small group here are the communication steps that should take place. This funnel approach to communication, moving from broad circles to narrow, can be used in any context.

  1. Engage your Small Group Coach
    – Let them help, pray and plan with you. They are there to serve you during this time.
  2. Engage with your Small Groups Pastor
    – One of my leadership mantras is this: I always prefer to be proactive rather than reactive. Meaning, I want to work with leaders early in this process rather than having to clean up after a poorly executed transition. Keep leadership engaged!
  3. Engage your Rhythm Leaders
    – This is where you begin letting key people in on the transition strategy
  4. Engage your small group
    – It’s my recommendation to do this at least a month out from the transition date. Too soon, and things seem to stall awkwardly as they wait for the change. Too quick (more common), the group feels devalued and hurt. Announce the transition a week before and you’ll infuse your group with unintended anxiety and confusion.

This article originally appeared here.

Previous articleRachael Denhollander’s Challenge to Sovereign Grace Churches
Next articleFitness Lessons for the Church
Aaron Coalson
I’m a husband, father, pastor, writer and general cultural connoisseur. Here I write at the intersection of theology, culture, leadership and community. Written by a millennial, for millennials in the church and in the culture seeking out what it means to live out our faith in this beautiful, chaotic world. This grand stage, as John Calvin calls it, where humanity lives out their lives.

Get the ChurchLeaders Daily Sent to Your Inbox