As many of you know, I am a big fan of regular self-assessment.
This kind of self-assessment is how good leaders become great, accountable leaders.
Thankfully, many of the leaders I work with rolled up their sleeves and did a deep, thoughtful self-assessment. As they reviewed their first six months, most realized they were fast approaching a fork in the road.
Simply put, many of these leaders needed to know whether they should stay where they are and continue fighting the good fight, or whether they should go.
A number of leaders reached out to me. They felt very strongly that they had reached an impasse – a point at which they could no longer lead in a way that was aligned to their personal values and vision.
In one instance, this leader talked to me at length about toiling in an organization that had become stagnant. As she looked to the future, she could not see any opportunity to grow as a leader.
Another leader told me he was trapped working with a group of zombies – employees and colleagues who were completely disengaged and merely going through the motions at work.
Still others shared that they were caught in a toxic culture so intense, it was beginning to take a toll on their health.
Although the leaders who reached out to me were dealing with different challenges, they all had one thing in common: each individual had started to feel as if they were settling into their roles and making compromises in the way they were leading. They were starting to give up and check out.
This is a moment most leaders will face in their careers. It would be great if we all worked for organizations that embraced the best principles and practices of accountable leadership. But the reality is that at some point, truly accountable leaders will find themselves working for unaccountable organizations.
If this describes your situation, then you have to start thinking about making a change. However, this is not a decision that should be undertaken lightly. Just as is the case with your overall leadership performance, self-assessment will help determine whether it’s better to stay and fight, or leave and find another organization that aligns better with your leadership vision.
Ask yourself these questions and make sure you provide honest answers.
1) Should I stay and fight? While your current situation may be difficult, you still owe it to yourself and your organization to consider staying. Is there anything about your role that you can change? Have you had a transparent conversation with your manager? Few places are perfect. Maybe you need to reframe things and work at improving your situation for yourself and others.
2) How is your health? If you are in a really bad situation you need to consider how it may be affecting your well-being. Talk to those closest to you. Have you been more irritable and less communicative? Are you having trouble sleeping, or are you engaging in some heavy drinking or stress eating? If your health is suffering, it may be necessary to move sooner rather than later.
3) Can you get some perspective from outside your organization? Reach out to people outside your organization to get a range of perspectives on your situation. When you find yourself in a rut, it’s important to get fresh insights. You may find that your situation may not be as bad as you think. Or that it’s possible to improve your situation without leaving.
4) Do you have an ‘Option B?’ One seasoned executive I talked to believes that many leaders often struggle with the decision to stay or go because they haven’t devoted enough time to identifying alternative options. I’ve learned in my own career to always have an ‘Option B’ in case you need to make a change.
After tackling these questions head on, you will be in a position to decide whether it’s appropriate to stay and fight for a better leadership experience, or whether it’s simply time to move on.
Remarkably, even after a hard self-assessment that suggests that a departure would be best, many leaders hesitate when it comes time to pull the ripcord. Even though they are languishing, and beginning to blend in with the underperformers and malcontents, they have trouble making the jump.
If you’ve considered your situation, looked at your health, talked to people outside your organization and contemplated your Option B, you will know whether it’s time to stay or go. If you fall into the latter category, set a deadline for making a move. And then put a plan into motion that will help you find a leadership gig that aligns better with your goals and values.
These are tough decisions. But truly accountable leaders never shy away from making a tough decision.
This week’s gut check for leaders asks: should you stay or should you go?
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