Outside Director | Trusted Advisor | Interim CEO

13 Reasons a Leader Knows It’s Time to Step Down

Exit Hanging on too long makes you irrelevant. Organizations change. Leaders should change too. You may not be the best person to lead your business forward. The skills that worked yesterday may not work today or tomorrow. Successful leaders know when to move-on. Are your strengths, the right strengths, to lead the organization tomorrow? How does a leader know when it’s time to step down and hand over the reins? According to Bill Brandt, author of, Compass, the issues are personal and organizational.

 “Servant leaders look at what’s right for the organization.”

Bill Brandt

13 Questions to know if it’s time to go:

  1. Have you accomplished what you wanted?
  2. Is this what you want to continue to do for the rest of your life?
  3. Is your passion shifting?
  4. Are you healthy enough to continue?
  5.  Do you have other dreams?
  6. Are you bored?
  7. Are you able to continue to reinvent?
  8. Do you have the energy?
  9. Do you continue to have fresh ideas?
  10. Is a different skill set necessary?
  11. Can someone do the job better?
  12. Have you groomed a successor and are they ready to lead?
  13. Are you placing the good of the organization first?

The first step toward stepping down: Your first decision is finding someone to help you make the decision. Find a coach or mentor you trust to give unbiased opinions and challenge your assumptions. Find this person before making any decisions. The individual should not be associated with the organization. Qualities to look for in a mentor or coach:

  1. Unbiased
  2. Can look at what’s best for you and the organization
  3. See all alternatives and solutions
  4. Validate your decision

The most important question a leader should ask is: Are you placing the good of the organization first? This is what leadership is all about. As a leader, what questions resonate with you? Are there other questions you should be asking? Why?

P.S. – Do you need an Outside Director, Advisory Board Member, Trusted Advisor,  or Interim CEO?  Someone who can help you see your business and your goals through “Fresh Eyes.”  Contact me and I will work with you to look at where you want to go and help you find the best way to get there.  Sometimes all it takes is someone with a fresh viewpoint, unencumbered by company politics or culture to help find the right solution.

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About Larry Putterman

Technology and Industrial Executive specializing in next-stage growth and competitive advantage strategy. serial entrepreneur, CEO, and board director. Husband, father... and major golf and fishing enthusiast!


  1. Neil graner says:

    Larry , very interesting, I am not ready yet to fully retire, I think maybe in the next 20 years or so. Have a MerryChristmas.

  2. Great article Larry. The 13 points are excellent questions for a leader to reflect on. Something else to consider is that a true leader is always learning and growing themselves. As you mentioned they may become bored or have other dreams they want to pursue. If this is not addressed, they will not be as effective as someone fresh with new ideas to grow the company.

  3. The fear factor is a major impediment to making the decision to relinquish authority. This is an inherent human trait which creates resistance to change. We fear change and the unknown. Mr. Putterman’s recommendation that the founder/president, or the employee/manager seek unbias consultation is the important first step in this process. I would add that change can mean transition not retirement.

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