Longevity is not leadership. Leadership is leadership. And longevity is longevity.

Don’t get me wrong – I love hearing about leaders who launch organizations and serve them for 20, 30, or 40 years. But does tenure make great leaders?

One of my best friends is one of the most loyal people I know. He will likely serve his current organization for the rest of his life. I have learned much about consistency and contentment through our friendship.

My father has been serving the same organization for more than 25 years.

Organizations and teams can benefit significantly from a leader who communicates and implements bold, compelling vision through changing seasons over a long period of time. And Sarah and I are looking forward to investing the most fulfilling and productive years of our lives in a long-term role within an organization.

Yet I’ve learned that although some executives man the helm of an organization for a long period of time, they are not always leading.


A leader of a large organization once confessed to me, My goal is to survive a presidency.

Is that leadership?

It certainly sounds more like self-preservation than leadership. And self-preservation is a fatally flawed foundation for decision-making – the kind of decision-making that is necessary to lead.

At it’s core leadership involves change. And those leading change embrace the fact that their position will often be in jeopardy.

Leaders care less about position and more about vision. Less about what got them here and more about what will get them there. Less about self-promotion and more about developing people.

Put simply, those not leading change are not leading. Longevity does not equal leadership. If you’ve been leading long, you’ve probably figured this out. And it’s probably personal to you. Because, at some point in your career it’s likely you have already served in a short-term leadership role – an unplanned temporary position.

Short-term roles

Short-term leadership stints are a necessary part of organizational leadership. These unintended interim roles are inherently valuable and can include…

  • Launching an organization or initiative
  • Introducing new vision
  • Facilitating health and growth
  • Guiding through transition
  • Leading through challenging times
  • Rebuilding and restructuring

When the leader’s work is done, they move on.

Make the most of it

I’ve been a short-term leader – though I arrived intending to remain long-term. Short-term leadership can be a bittersweet experience. You planned to spend the rest of your career within the organization building something great together. But that was before you developed a team of leaders and worked yourself out of a job.

Unplanned temporary can also be painful at times. Have you experienced the dysfunction of a poor leader? Had a colleague betray your trust? Have you poured hundred of hours intodeveloping your team members, only to have them walk away from the vision?

Regardless of the reason, short-term leadership is an essential part of organizational growth. When a leader fulfills her purpose within an organization, the best thing she can do is leave.

Question: Have you experienced an unplanned temporary position? Have you ever known someone who stayed too long?

Article by Michael Nichols


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