by Carey Nieuwhof
Leaders, by definition, deal with change on a constant basis. They react to change, they lead others through change, and they engineer change, all with the intent of bringing about a better future. In short, leaders have to be hardy because leading change takes perseverance and patience.
But what if God is calling you on to something else before the change has been carried out? (After all, some are called to sow, some to cultivate, and others to reap.) How do you know when it’s time to leave?
Three Signs It May Be Time to Leave
First, let me be clear about this: none of what follows is designed to take the place of your hearing from God. No blog, book, or other resource can do that. However, there are at least three conditions that, if true, would make me think twice about staying in a role in which I was making little or no headway:
- Your spouse thinks it’s time to give in or move on. No one knows me better than my wife. I trust her judgment more than I trust my own in many issues. If she believes it’s time to move on, I would at least take that to God (and to other counsel) for prayerful consideration. Those of us who are married realize that our spouses can usually see if our passion for God is waning to an unhealthy level over a long period of time. And while it’s a delicate subject in marriage, spouses can probably also sense if we have both the gifting and the skill necessary for the change ahead of us. If we don’t, they’ll gently suggest it’s time to move on. If you are not married, then you might ask a best friend, parent, or someone who knows you exceptionally well to give you this kind of feedback.
- Your circle of wise counsel is unanimously telling you to reconsider. If you believe you are right about the change that needs to happen, but you are pretty much the only one, it’s a sign you might be wrong or that your vision isn’t right for this group of people. If my inner circle told me I was pushing too hard for change, or the vision I was advancing was the wrong one, I would have to take that very, very seriously, and maybe realize I wasn’t the right leader for this team. Or that I needed to think through my approach again. Similarly, they might see that my passion has waned below acceptable levels over time, or that I don’t have the necessary gifting and skill for the challenges ahead. Leaders need to consider what wise counsel has to say.
- You have lost the confidence of the most capable leaders in the organization. This one sounds similar to #2, but it’s a little different. Essentially, this refers to the positional leaders in your organization. If I lost the confidence of our elders or leadership team, I would resign and move on. I would not only need to trust that God might be speaking through them, I would also need to realize that my influence as a leader was gone. Without influence, you can’t bring about change. If you lose the confidence of the most capable leaders, the current chapter of the story may indeed be ending.
The list above is not scientific. But if two or three of those conditions are true over a longer time period (say three to six months, minimum), it might be time to move on. If only one is true, or if it’s only true for a short season, you might want to hang in there a bit longer. After all, even Moses lost the confidence of his closest leaders for a season. We all have bad days. We all have bad weeks. Some leaders might even have a bad year. But if the conditions above are true over time, they might be a sign God is, indeed, calling you to move on and your season of leadership in that organization is finished.
Pass or Fail?
If it is the case that it’s time to move on, that’s not necessarily a sign that your leadership has been a failure. The best leaders will always seek to learn what they could have done differently and get input from a variety of voices about how they should have handled things. But failure to bring about change doesn’t always mean you failed.
Why does change not always work out? Honestly, who really knows? But here are two possible reasons. First, the change might not fit God’s timing. And second, God is in it, but perhaps He has a different leader in mind to lead the charge. Consider Moses. No matter how much he wanted to “persevere” into the Promised Land, God had a different leader in mind to finish the job (and yes, this was because of a specific act of disobedience on Moses’ part; see Numbers 20:12-13). Some of us might be Moses, and some of us might be Joshua.
To hear more from Carey about how long change can take, go to LeadingChangeWithoutLosingIt.com and click on “How Long Will It Take?” To find out more about the book Leading Change Without Losing It, as well as related resources, go to OrangeBooks.com. You can pick up a copy of Leading Change Without Losing It at Orange, Apple, or Amazon.
This is an excerpt from the book Leading Change Without Losing It, by Carey Nieuwhof. Carey is the lead pastor of Connexus Community Church, north of Toronto. Prior to starting Connexus in 2007, he served for 12 years in a mainline church, transitioning three small congregations into a single, rapidly growing congregation. Carey and his wife, Toni, live near Barrie, Ontario, and have two sons, Jordan and Sam. He blogs at www.careynieuwhof.com.