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Release the Reins By Wayne Pederson

Christian Leadership AllianceRelease the Reins: 8 Tips for Successful Leadership Transitions

By Wayne Pederson ~

Each day, approximately 10,000 baby boomers turn 65. Many are in leadership roles, including ministry leadership, and they must transfer that leadership to the next generation. I’ve seen healthy transitions and some badly managed handoffs.

So, how can a leader know when it’s time to release the reins?

8 Tips for Successful Leadership Transitions

1. Start early. I know of a ministry leader who came from corporate management, where he was advised to start looking for his replacement his first day on the job.

2. Look for an internal candidate possessing leadership ability. Begin mentoring that person.

3. Develop an external network of contacts. This offers options if there’s no strong internal candidate.

4. Create a climate of transparency with your board. After turning 65, a well-known pastor asked his board to review his competency annually. Allow your colleagues freedom to advise when “it’s time.”

5. Prepare the board for transition. Give your board time to plan a smooth transition. Eighteen to 24 months is not too much lead time for your board to get accustomed to your leaving and to begin the search for your successor.

6. Prepare yourself for the transition. Have a life outside the job. Some leaders are so focused on work that they have no interests or relationships outside the organization. Their identity is so tied to their position that they lose their identity when they “retire.”

7. Don’t really retire. Continue to serve in new ways, using your lifetime of experience and connections to influence others.

8. Be a cheerleader for your successor. Be available to advise, but only when asked.

Follow Great Examples

A great biblical model for leadership transition is the passing of the reins of leadership from Moses to Joshua. “Now Joshua son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him. So the Israelites listened to him and did what the Lord had commanded Moses” (Deut. 34:9). Then God gave Joshua this promise: “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Joshua 1:5b).

I like what NFL quarterback Peyton Manning said as he retired from the Denver Broncos. “I thought about it a lot, I prayed about it a lot, but it was just the right time. I’m totally convinced that the end of my football career is just the beginning of something I haven’t even discovered yet. Life is not shrinking for me; it’s morphing into a whole new world of possibilities. I have fought a good fight. I finished my football race, and after 18 years, it’s time.”

When you retire, convert your leadership experience to a new role as influencer. As I shared with a well-known leader struggling with the prospect of retirement: “Your legacy will not be leading a large organization. Your legacy will be helping marriages and families.”

What Next

Your “fourth quarter” can be your most satisfying and productive season. As I step aside from organizational leadership, I move to a role of broader influence, speaking, mentoring, consulting and board governance. As much as I sensed God’s call to this position years ago, I now sense that he has released me from obligations and schedules. With palms up, we release things we hold and open to receive God’s next!


Wayne Pederson is president emeritus and global ambassador for Reach Beyond, following eight years as the organization’s president. He serves on the boards of ECFA and National Religious Broadcasters. Today’s post is an excerpt from an article featured in the Fall edition on the Outcomes Magazine.

If you are a CEO, President, COO, or Executive Director and successful transitions are important to you, be sure to reserve your spot for the Outcomes Conference 2018.

 Learn more about The Outcomes Conference 2018





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Christian Leadership Alliance equips and unites leaders to transform the world for Christ. We are the leaders of Christ-centered organizations who are dedicated to faithful stewardship for greater kingdom impact.

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