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Posted: February 21, 2013

Go, Pope, go!

The courageous act of leaving

Todd Ordal

A guy with arguably one of the most important and toughest jobs in the universe just quit with only two weeks’ notice. He had a billion people in his organization. His “company” provided not just a housing allowance but a compound so impressive that it had an original Michelangelo painting … on the ceiling!

He had a security detail with velvet uniforms and spears. This guy was so powerful that he didn’t answer to a board of directors — he answered only to God. And unless there’s a scandal that’s yet to hit the wire, he voluntarily retired.

Leaders of organizations that require new blood, fresh ideas and a different skill set are often so wrapped up in their trappings that they forget the company is more important than they are. They grow long in the tooth, and their employees, customers and shareholders suffer as a result.

Although this may be correlated with age, correlation is not causation. The three factors I’ve observed that contribute to the “not yet dead, but still in office” syndrome are waning passion, reluctance to change and disinterest in learning. The company leader who ignores changing customer requirements and a shifting business environment eventually goes the route of the Twinkie.

Public companies and those owned by “professional investors” rarely have this problem. If anything, they’re too quick to pull the trigger and convene the College of Cardinals. Family businesses, however, often struggle with transition. Founders may have the right to stay in office, just like the pope, but if their objective is to continue the business, sell it or transition to the next generation, they must ensure that they haven’t put their ego and need for control squarely in front of the goal line.

It takes lots of courage to be an effective leader. But sometimes it takes more courage to admit that you aren’t the right person for the job.

Todd Ordal is President of Applied Strategy LLC. Todd helps CEOs achieve better financial results, become more effective leaders and sleep easier at night. He speaks, writes, consults and advises on issues of strategy and leadership. Todd is a former CEO and has led teams as large as 7,000. Follow Todd on Twitter here. You can also find Todd at http://www.appliedstrategy.info,  303-527-0417 or todd@appliedstrategy.info

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