Alchemical Thoughts

Bob Sutton on stepping down for leaders and managers

Posted on: May 31, 2011

Bob Sutton recently wrote a column in the June 2011 edition of the Harvard Business Review entitled “On Stepping Down Gracefully.” It is a small piece giving advice to managers and CEOs on how to step down from their high posts with grace. I found it interesting since I always say that a big mistake a lot of dictators make is that they do not know when to quit. I’ve joked with friends that, if I ever became a dictator, I would certainly not overstay my welcome. Once I’ve set up a nice nest egg in some nation without extradition treaties and good tight banking, and I’ve left the country in pretty good shape, I am out of there.

But joking aside, managers often do not know when to quit. And even when they yield to a new manager, they persist in hanging around and imposing their shadow on the new guy or gal. Mr. Sutton has some advice for those folks: don’t. In the end, when it is time to leave, people will remember how you left your organization, how you made your exit. As Sutton writes, “will you be remembered as a selfish narcissist or a selfless steward?” If you are a manager, you may not be able to fix any bad things you did during your tenure, but you can decide to leave in a good note and thus be remembered with some dignity and positivity.

Sutton was offering a free PDF of the article via his blog (there were only 100 copies. I managed to snatch one. By the time of this writing, they may be gone). However, you should be able to still find the article via your local library.


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May 2011


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