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Preparing for Take Off: When to Stop Delaying Your Departure 

leadership transition Feb 22, 2022

- By Sophie Pinkoski

In February 2020, Zip Recruiter recorded 22,072 job openings for C-Suite positions. Merely three months later, these numbers plummeted to 9,301 as the pandemic took hold. April and May 2020 saw a significant worldwide drop in leadership transitions as CEOs began to rethink the wisdom of leaving their organizations in the midst of a global crisis. Instead, they stayed on to ensure continuity and stability in times of chaos and uncertainty. Those who put off their transition are only just preparing for their departure after two long years of stressful leadership decisions. In fact, job openings jumped to 40,681 in October 2021 to reflect leaders’ intentions to leave in 2022. Clearly we have reached a turning point. The question is, why now? 

The initial emergency has passed – After two years of living with the pandemic, the original urgency has died down. With organizations settling into a new routine, CEOs can be more confident in their team’s emergency response strategy going forward. It’s natural for leadership transitions to pick up again once uncertainty slows. We’re beginning to see that now. 

Gaining COVID clarity – The time spent working from home has afforded many of us the opportunity to consider our values. Leaders themselves have come to re-evaluate their priorities while spending quality time with family or focusing on passions they didn’t have time for previously. Identifying what no longer serves you helps protect your joy. With the exhaustion of leading through a pandemic setting in, leaders are realizing the stress of the job is beginning to far outweigh the joy. In July 2021, Deloitte Canada surveyed 1,100 CEOs and found that 51% of leaders were considering leaving, whether through retirement, resigning, taking a leave of absence, or downgrading to a far less demanding role. It takes time to reach such conclusions, and even more careful planning to make them a reality.  

Burnout – Empathy for your team’s mental health has become a key aspect of strong leadership in times of crisis. Yet while an attentive leader actively takes the time to address everyone else’s mental health needs, very little is done to address that of the CEO themselves. In fact, 55% of CEOs fear the stigma of discussing their mental health issues, lest they be seen as incapable of being a strong leader when they’re needed most. A leader is expected to stay strong and keep up team morale. While it’s admirable to stay on as leader while your organization weathers the worst of the storm, there comes a time where this becomes a detriment to your own mental health. Exhausted leaders lead exhausted teams and leader burnout eventually trickles down to the team level, impacting the organization as a whole. 

We can’t put important decisions on hold forever. After all, the pandemic has no set end date. There may come a point where further delaying your leadership transition will negatively impact your organization. When the time does come for you to leave, do so to reinvigorate both yourself and your organization. 


Further Reading: 

CEOs are Joining the ‘Great Resignation’, Trading Fatigue for Family Time, NBC News 

More Chief Executives Join ‘The Great Resignation’, Reuters 

‘I’m Out of Gas’: Leadership Burnout On the Rise as Pandemic Takes Mental Health Toll, CTV News 

Covid-19: Is Your Board Hitting the Brakes on CEO Transition?, Spencer Stuart 

In the Summer of Quitting, the Boss is Leaving, Too, Financial Post 

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