Things were going well at the church. Sure, he knew a few people didn’t like the changes he was making but the church was growing significantly. And then it happened. He got a call: the personnel chairman and chairman of the deacons wanted to meet with him. That couldn’t be good but he never expected to be told they were letting him go. Shocked, hurt, angry, and confused, he went home to tell his wife. He was ready to give up being a pastor. It was too hard. He just wanted a regular job.
There are times when leadership transitions happen unexpectedly. They hit you by surprise and knock the wind out of your sails. An unexpected merger, a new boss who wants new leaders, or the personnel committee or board tells you they want a leadership change. Sometimes things are going well when you are caught in the change but sometimes the forces of change are greater than your leadership. Fired. Dismissed. Let go. It doesn’t matter what word you use, you felt your world was spinning out of control. What do you do?
Your first response may be:
I don’t want to see anyone.
I don’t want to talk to anyone.
I am a failure.
I never want to lead again.
I can’t do anything right.
I didn’t even see this one coming.
All these responses are natural but will only spin you down. For you or for someone you know, here are seven key steps in a time of leadership transition to help reset your leadership:
7 Steps to Reset Your Leadership in Transition
1. Pull together your closest support group (friends and family) and grieve the loss, acknowledge the hurt, and simply rest.
2. Ask for help. Broaden your support system. Call friends, family, and colleagues to pray and let them know you are in a leadership transition. Your spouse and family are hurting also, so make sure they have the support needed during this time. If you or your family need counseling, get it. If you need career counseling, get it.
3. Acknowledge that you aren’t perfect. No, you didn’t do everything right BUT you didn’t do everything wrong either. Don’t let the pain of being let go overshadow the many, many leadership contributions you made.
4. Use this time to grow. Yes, grow. You will need a few weeks to regroup and it is a great time to confirm your gifts, your passions, your strengths, and your calling. A leadership change can be a great opportunity to bring clarity and focus to your life.
5. Network. You aren’t the first leader in transition and there is a large network who understands and can help. As you gain clarity and focus, use this as an opportunity to introduce yourself to others. Prepare a resume and share it. Your network is made up of people who have other networks! Think outside the box.
6. Get perspective. Leadership changes happen for a variety of reasons and most don’t have anything to do with you. There were forces at work before you arrived to lead. It feels like the end of the world, but it can be the best beginning of a new leadership opportunity. Hard, yes, but also an opportunity for you to grown, learn, and become a better leader.
7. Grow your faith. Don’t blame God but rather seek Him. Deepen your time of prayer, increase your love for Him, soak in the truth of His Word. If you are His child, no matter what transitions life brings you, you can be confident in Him. All hope. All peace. All joy.
“I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6
What lessons have you learned through a leadership transition?
P.S. The pastor mentioned at the first is now faithfully and joyfully serving in another church.