Should a Leader Stay or Go?

Gerwig 2015-06-17bAt least weekly, someone asks me whether they should stay or go? Sometimes it’s a manufacturing professional. Sometimes it’s a college student. Sometimes it’s a pastor. Sometimes it’s a logistics executive. Sometimes it’s a military officer. And always, they’re wrestling with something. Pay. Hours. Difficult boss. Greener grass. Warmer climate.

Sound familiar? At some level, all of us wrestle. You do. I do too. We wonder whether we’re making an impact, whether we would like a bigger title, whether it would be fun to live in Malaysia or whether we’d just like a change of scenery. Ok, there are a few of you who never wrestle with you geographic location. You love Omaha or Miami or Manila or Geneva or Piney Flats. But I’m willing to bet that at some level you wrestle with your status quo. You might wrestle because you’re discontented with your current situation. Or you might wrestle with what “could be.” You’re not necessarily discontented, but you’re curious. I get it. So am I.

Recently, I was completing a small household chore using some wood glue. If used correctly, wood glue really works! The pieces of wood will stick together. They’re not separating. I don’t really know what the opposite of glue would be. WD-40? Solvent? But I do know what it’s like to be stuck, to be fast, to be glued down. For me, it’s an uncomfortable feeling. I like options. I like freedom. And I like the ability to come and go as I please. I don’t like being forced to stay, to be stuck. Sometimes when I feel stuck, I feel myself pulling, trying to free myself. Have you ever experienced this? On the flip side, there have been times where I feel like I’m completely wondering, without an anchor. A little glue would be helpful in those situations.

Is it wrong to wrestle? Is it wrong to leave? Is it wrong to stay? The short answer is no. The best answer is “it depends.” Just like situational leadership helps us navigate our interaction with another, staying or going is, at best, an opportunity to use situational decision-making. There’s not a one-size-fits-all answer or approach. Ugh! I know this makes it more difficult but it’s the truth.

In some situations the best thing you can do is stay and work it out. In other situations the best thing you can do is get away as quickly as possible. Sometimes even though you stay initially, you eventually leave. And sometimes when you leave immediately, you eventually come back.

Before deciding, I recommend you think through the following:

  1. Commitment. Do you have a commitment? For example, a contract or agreement of some type. Maybe just a handshake.
  2. Family. What will the impact be on your family if you stay? If you go?
  3. Finances. What will the cost be if you stay? If you go?
  4. Irrevocability. Can you reverse your decision down the road? At what cost?
  5. Neighbors & co-workers. What will the impact be to your co-workers and neighbors if you stay? If you go?
  6. Church & ministry. Are you a person of faith? If so, what impact will the impact be to your ministry if you stay? If you go?
  7. Growth. What will the impact be to your personal and professional development if you stay? If you go?

This list is, by no means, exhaustive, but you get the idea. You can always add to it. For example, you might add “regret/2nd-guessing.” If you decide to stay, will you regret ‘not going?’ If you go, will you ‘second-guess” yourself every time there is a bump along the new path? Remember, there is risk in everything. There is risk in staying. There is risk in going. The key is to think about it, pray about it, talk it through and don’t make a rash decision. Rarely is there a great opportunity that requires an immediate decision. You should never make a big decision when being artificially pressured.

How about you? Are you staying or going? How do you decide what opportunities to pursue?

Dr. is an agent of change and is able to balance the needs of the business and the needs of people. Dr. Gerwig believes and practices the values of performance and delivery of business metrics while simultaneously developing and growing people into leaders. You can contact him at RobertGerwig[at]


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