During my years in the Air Force, the military made it a priority to keep its commanders moving in and out of various positions. The standard tour for a commander was two years after which you would move to a new assignment and the next officer would fill your shoes via a change of command ceremony. I came to love this infusion of learning from different leaders, developing camaraderie with different types of airmen, and accomplishing different missions. Upon assumption of command you knew you had a certain amount of time to accomplish various goals to include mentoring those under you and making recommendations for advancements.
I saw first-hand the benefits of “term limits” and carry my respect for them to this day. After I left the military and worked in various corporations and industries I always let my team know that I would be there for two to three years max. At that time, if I was leading correctly, it would be time for me to leave the nest and let the underlings spread their wings and fly. Walter Lippmann said, “The final test of a leader is that he leaves behind him in other men the conviction and the will to carry on.” So you never really know how effective you are as a leader until you actually leave. Only then do you see your true legacy.
The goal of leaders is to advance people and grow independent thinkers and perpetual learners. What if your child stayed in middle school and never progressed to high school? You may say that not everyone wants to climb the ladder and this is most certainly true. But within every organization there is a group of folks willing and wanting to become all that you want to make them and more.
What makes a leader chose to stay in a seat for more years than they should? Is it money? Power? Title? Ego? The fear that someone will come in after them and do it better than they did? These are tough questions that the leader must ask themselves. Isn’t it a bit selfish to not look at those you have the privilege of leading and not want some of them to taste the sweet success and bitter failures that have made you who you are?
Leadership is so glorified yet it is so tough…. the loneliness, the weariness, the abandonment, the vision. Yet these are the very steps to leading a supreme life. With leadership, it seems like once we get it we think that by letting it go, we’ll lose it. In fact, the exact opposite is true. As Lao Tzu said, “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, not so good when people obey and acclaim him, worse when they despise him....But of a good leader who talks little when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say, ‘We did it ourselves.’”
Maybe it’s time for you to get out of the way so others know the victory of achievement.