What to Do When a Leader Leaves

In the course of our change work, we’ll often see a leader leave an organization. Sometimes it’s because they simply don’t like the way the company is evolving (or the fact that the company is evolving at all), so they opt out. Sometimes it’s the client who realizes that the leader isn’t a good fit anymore, and needs to leave so the rest of the team can flourish. And yes, sometimes it’s a coincidence—a leader finds a better job during a time of change.

No matter why a leader leaves—even if it’s best for the team—it can still be extremely stressful for the people who stay. Who will replace the leader? Will the team be able to function in the interim? We’ve put together a simple list of Do’s and Don’ts to consider if you find your organization in this situation:

  • Do avoid the grapevine. Craft a positive narrative with the greatest transparency you can afford. Let affected departments know when they will hear updates from you, then stick to that schedule.
  • Don’t let competing narratives create chaos and confusion. A failure to address the change publicly and fully only pushes discussions into back channels.
  • Do deputize. Divvy up the person’s roles, set clear expectations, and address everyone’s blind spots.
  • Don’t jump to drawing a new org chart. This is a great time to first review your strategies.
  • Do draft a plan. Develop a timeline for filling the position or adapting the existing team.
  • Don’t hire too quickly. It’s tempting to hire the first person who can take on exactly the same roles and responsibilities, but take your time to find the right person for the right roles.

Want more? Download the full list of do’s and don’ts.

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What to Do When a Leader Leaves
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