5 Reasons You Need to Stay in Your Leadership Role Longer Than You Want To

Leadership //

Maybe you’re thinking of leaving.

You’re thinking:

I’ve done everything I can here.

I’m not sure there’s much room left to grow.

A change of venue will bring greater opportunity.

And maybe God is calling you elsewhere. I can’t say. You know that.

But I do know this: I think most leaders leave their organizations too soon. Especially ministry leaders.

Sure…nobody wants to be that guy or girl who stays too long and cruises a paycheck to retirement. But I’m just going to assume you’re not that leader.

And if you leave too soon, you’ll never wrestle down the one principle that far too many leaders miss.

It’s this:

You need to stay in a position long enough to solve the problems you created.

I’m not 100% sure where I first heard this, but I think it might have been from Rick Warren early on in my ministry journey.

And I think he’s so right.

Let me explain why.

5 Reasons You Need to Stay in a Leadership Role Longer Than You Want To

So why do you need to stay in your organization longer than you want to?  There are at least 5 good reasons I’ve discovered:



1. Leaving often means running.

Let’s be honest, too many leaders leave because they can’t solve the problems facing. So they run.

Run to a place where it will be easier to solve problems…for a few years…until it becomes easier to leave again rather than face reality—which usually begins with a hard look in the mirror.

When we see this pattern in relationships (so…this is how many wives/girlfriends/husbands/boyfriends??) we think it’s sad. It’s clear to everyone but the runner that they’re running.

But doesn’t the same principle often play out in leadership?


2. Solving the problems you created will require you to become a stronger leader.

Solving someone else’s problems is easy. Anyone can do it.

But stay in a place for more than 5 years and suddenly you’re solving the problems you created. Now you have no one left to throw under the bus but you (not that you should be throwing children of God under the bus anyway).

Solving the problems you created takes true leadership. Grabbing a mirror and looking at you and your limits and your issues will make you a better leader.

If you leave, it will always be about them and their issues and how terrible they were and blah blah blah blah blah.

By the way, wrestling down your issues at work will also make you a better husband, father and friend. It will change your character.

3. You’ll miss the greatest return on your leadership.

In ministry, the greatest returns appear to happen over a lifetime in the same place. I can’t think of many outstanding prevailing ministries that have been built on serial five year stints.

Leaders like Craig Groeschel, Andy Stanley, Rick Warren, Perry Noble, Steven Furtick, Bill Hybels and many others with whose names we’re less familiar, built highly impactful ministries by staying in the same place pretty much for life.

And often the greatest returns on those ministries happened not in years 1-5, but later. In some cases, the returns on leadership investment are reaching new highs past the 20 year mark.

Leaders should take note.


4. Leaving  blows your opportunity to create a world class organization.

Here’s a principle every leader should wrestle down: If you need to leave to grow, you’ve created an artificially small organization.

I’ve heard leaders say “this platform/church/town is too small for me”.

Really? First of all, let’s do an ego check. Seriously.

Second, why not just created an organization where the dreams of hopes of every leader can be realized (not just yours and not just staff…). I mean if you can’t develop your leadership potential in the local church, maybe you just need to create a better leadership development culture.

We are not the biggest church at Connexus, but we are working hard to create a culture in which people can develop their God-given gifts to their greatest potential. Many of our staff have influence beyond their positions, and a surprising number of our lay people are running full scale charities of their own in Africa, Central America and places beyond. It’s inspiring.

Best yet, we all get to work together to make an impact in the cities and community we love.

If you need to leave to grow, you’ve created an artificially small organization.

5. You might change things, but you’ll never transform them if you leave too soon.

Change can (and often should) happen quickly, and sometimes it should. But transformation only happens over time.

Why is that?

Change begins with a modification of external habits or behaviours. Transformation happens when internal values match new behaviour.

I think change can happen in months or in a year. But transformation—that moment when people no longer want it the way it was—ussually takes at least 5-7 years.

Think about that.

And your goal is transformation, right?

So Should You NEVER Leave?

I have served with the same core of leaders for 19 years, although we have switched denominations in the process. So my bias is toward staying, but during those years we’ve engineered radical change from within the framework of consistent leadership.

So, should you never leave?

I’m not saying that at all. You might need to leave. I wrote this post outlining 5 signs it’s time to move on.

And I offer some advice on how to grow when you stay (and the 5 year life-cycle of a leader) here.


What Do You Think?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

What others reasons are there to stay? What do you gain when you go?

Leave a comment!






About the Author

Carey Nieuwhof is lead pastor of Connexus Community Church and author of the best selling books, Leading Change Without Losing It and Parenting Beyond Your Capacity. Carey speaks to North American and global church leaders about change, leadership, and parenting. Follow Carey on Twitter: