How To Deal With A Leadership Transition

One thing in life is guaranteed. Things will change.

We grow older. We move away. We get married. Life changes.

Leadership changes as well. There are times when a leader shifts position or moves away from the organization completely. When this happens, we need to know how to deal with a leadership transition.

Image by Dave Huth

Image by Dave Huth

Our church has experienced quite a bit of leadership transition over the past couple of years. We believed our senior pastor was transitioning to a new role and our assistant pastor was going to step in and fill the lead pastor position. Things changed and this didn’t happen.

Then our youth pastor, whom I’ve served as a youth leader for over 10 years, stepped down. He transitioned into a full-time music minister and head of the Wednesday night services. And now he’s moved into a position of lead pastor at another church.

Now, our senior pastor has created a plan to step down and allow our former children’s pastor to take over his role.

Like I said, there’s a lot of transition going on in our church. Not all of it is easy to digest.

The leadership transitions can be scary. We’re not always sure what is happening and who’s going where. We also have to answer to new leaders while wondering if we’re being disloyal to our previous leaders.

Why Leadership Transition Happens

There’s plenty of reasons that leaders transition to new roles. The leader you’ve followed for so many years has outgrown the role that he was in. He might feel led to leave the organization and move to a new one. There might have been a disagreement and she had to be removed.

Whatever the reason, people change their positions within organizations. We’ve got to realize this happens and not take it personally.

What To Do During A Leadership Transition

These leadership transitions can be tough. I’ve struggled through a few of them.

There’s a wide range of emotions that can be felt during the transition. You may feel happiness, sadness, frustration, betrayal, pain, and more.

The key is to not let your emotions be in charge of what you do during this time. Instead, try doing these things in a transition period:

We need to be aware of our feelings during the transition. Allow yourself to feel the pain. Sometimes there will be hurt feelings. You’ll free frustrated while the new leader transitions into the new role.

But be careful about giving into anger. Voicing our anger with the transition in a negative way can hurt the changes that need to be made.

We need to support the new leadership. Organizations are constantly changing. This includes who’s leading. When new leadership takes over, be supportive of the new leader.

Offer to help in the transition. Let them know you’re there to help. You want the organization and leadership to succeed. Show it and give them your best.

We need to look for new opportunities. Transitions allow us to shift our roles as well. While I didn’t take over as a youth pastor, another youth leader did. He seen the new opportunity and took it.

As leaders move, it opens up positions within the organizations for advancement. Maybe the leadership move is a chance for you to move forward and advance.

We may need to move on. If we can’t support the new direction of the new leadership, you may have to consider moving out of the organization. It’s better to hit the road than to stay in an organization that isn’t aligned with your goals and priorities.

Don’t stick around to gossip and badmouth the new leadership. Be a leader and be willing to move on.

Question: What other tips do you have for dealing with a leadership transition? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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