I still remember when Pelé, one of the greatest soccer (a.k.a. football) players of all time, retired from Brazilian sports in 1974. He was only 34 years old and still had a lot of play left in him. He later accepted an offer from the New York Cosmos, making a significant contribution to the popularization of soccer in the United States. Like Pelé, many leaders quit or move on from their positions at the top of their game, while others linger too long until their leadership declines, or worse, they are fired. Perhaps walking away is equally as important as leading itself.


With the exception of kings and queens, like Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, leadership positions are limited. Jerry White, former president of the Navigators stated,

No one leads for a lifetime. They lead for a
season and continue to exhibit influence.


The issue is knowing when a season ends and when it is time to move on. Let me suggest four questions to ask to help the process.

  1. Will I make a more significant contribution to the vision by staying or leaving?
    Sometimes leaders need to move from the top position to a support role, often outside the leadership structure of the organization. This allows them to further the vision in new ways.

  2. Is God calling me to a new season of service?
    This question can be tricky, because it is personal and subjective. Ultimately, it is we who respond to God, and sometimes He calls us to a new season. It is not about our preference as a leader, but about serving others. Good advice from trusted and experienced friends, who are also leaders, is essential to answering this question with wisdom.

  3. Is it time for change?
    As the world and our circumstances change, they may require a different kind of leadership with different skill sets than our own. A wise leader can perceive this and plan a gracious and smooth exit.

  4. Does staying mean compromising my integrity?
    Sometimes a leader may face the tough choice of keeping their job or their integrity. If we consider integrity as an essential core value, answering this question becomes quite simple.

James gives us some of the best advice in scripture.

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you.
He will not rebuke you for asking.
James 1:5, NLT

Making the decision to walk away from a position of leadership at the right time is a sign of wisdom and courage, and may even yield greater and longer lasting results.


Are you contemplating a “season change” in your leadership? Which of the four questions above is most appropriate to ask in your current situation?

by Norival Trindade