“That which governs best, governs least.” John Stuart Mill
It might seem counterintuitive, but the better you are at leading a team, the less they’ll miss you when you’re gone. If you know that your retirement is going to cause a power vacuum; if you know that many employees will feel they have been cast adrift without you there, that is not a testament to your powers of leadership, but to the culture of dependence you have fostered within the company.
Establishing a workforce that is reliant upon your expertise and your decision-making might serve to stroke your ego, but it also leaves your workforce vulnerable when it comes time for you to move on. It is inevitable that, given time, you will be leaving the company one way or another. As a leader, you need to make sure that you choose when and how you leave.
Will your staff manage without you?
This is a common question when it comes to planning retirement. ‘How will they all cope without me?’
A better question might be ‘what can I do to ensure they thrive without me?’
One of the modern challenges of leadership is the emergence of new technology and forms of communication. As you grow older, it is inevitable that you will lead teams which contain young people, who have been born into a different world from the one you are used to. We do not grow as people unless we are ready to learn from these people, and – yes – recognise their superior knowledge.
A leader is not someone who ‘knows more’ than everyone else, but someone who recognises how to pool all the available talents and foster a sense of shared purpose. Before your exit from a company, look to harness the talents of those in your team and strengthen leadership skills amounts those who will be picking up the reins.
An effective leader is not simply a commander of people, but a part of the team. They may navigate the way, but as they do so, they share their purpose and their reasons, thus building the confidence of all around them. So, as part of your exit strategy, make sure your team does not rely on you, but that they all recognise their reliance on each other.
As a final thought for all the business owners reading this: if your team can’t manage without you, then where is the value in the business?