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When Is It Time for a Leader to Walk Away?

When Is It Time for a Leader to Walk Away?
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    Brian Dodd
Somewhere there is a discouraged pastor reading this post who is considering resigning. There is also a business or nonprofit leader who is emotionally drained and considering retiring. There is even an athletic coach who does not feel he or she has another game left in them. So how does a leader know when it is time to walk away. On June 7, Oklahoma Sooners head coach Bob Stoops shocked the sporting world when he retired after 18 seasons. Coach Stoops had won 10 Big 12 titles and a national championship in 2000. He was only 56 years old. An ESPN article, which you can read by clicking HERE, chronicled the events leading up to Coach Stoops’s announcement. As I read the article, I gleaned 12 Things Great Leaders Know About When It Is Time to Walk Away:
  1. Great Leaders Know All Leadership Is Temporary – Coach Stoops said, “Everything has its time.”
  2. Great Leaders Often Walk Away When They Know They Are Ready – Coach Stoops was ready to retire during the summer. This was an open time in his schedule after he had gone from the bowl game to recruiting to spring practice.
  3. Great Leaders Know the Decision to Walk Away Is a Process – Coach Stoops reflected, “When it first pops up in your mind, you think you’re crazy, why would you think that? Then you start realizing, when it pops up again, maybe there’s a reason this is popping up. But it’s a process. After 18½ years, it’s not something you knee-jerk react to immediately.”
  4. Great Leaders Often Walk Away Because They Are Just Plain Tired – Brother Mike said, “I just think he’s tired.” This is something leaders and organizations they serve should monitor very closely. Many times great leaders do not need to walk away. They simply need a vacation or sabbatical.
  5. Great Leaders Know There Is Rarely a Good Time to Walk Away – Coach Stoops said, “After this long, there isn’t any right way or perfect time. The only other way is you’re losing … and you get run out of town.”
  6. Past Events Often Determine the Timing for Great Leaders to Walk Away – Coach Stoops' father, Ron Sr., died of a heart attack after coaching a high school game. He was 54 years old, two years younger than Coach Stoops was at the time of his announcement. He did not want the coaching profession to take him away from his family like what happened with his father.
  7. Great Leaders Often Walk Away to Spend More Time With What Matters Most, Their Family – Coach Stoops wanted to spend more time watching his twin sons play at Norman North High School.
  8. Great Leaders Know Walking Away Will Shock People – Stoops' brother Mark said, “One of those moments you won’t forget because…it came out of the blue.”
  9. Great Leaders Often Identify Their Successor Prior to Walking Away – Hired three years ago, Coach Stoops saw himself in Assistant Coach Lincoln Riley.
  10. Great Leaders Walk Away When the Organization Is Better Than They Found It – Oklahoma Football Operations Director Matt McMillen said, “It was classic Bob. He knows we’re going to have a good team. We’ve got a great senior quarterback and a lot of good leadership. And he didn’t want to leave the cupboard dry at all. He wanted Lincoln to have all the opportunities to have a successful first year. That’s just how he is.”
  11. Great Leaders Notify the Organization’s Leaders First – Smart leaders know to never leapfrog leaders. Prior to a 5:30 p.m. news conference to announce his retirement to the general public, Stoops and Riley notified star quarterback Baker Mayfield first.
  12. Great Leaders Know Walking Away Will Be a Very Difficult Decision – Coach Stoops concluded, “But I know I did the right thing for me and my family, and for the program. But it’ll be different. That’ll be the tough part.”
What is one thing you learned from Coach Bob Stoops about when it is time to walk away from your leadership position? This article originally appeared here.