One of the biggest challenges that you'll have as a leader is making a decision on when to quit your job. When Jacinda Ardern, former Prime Minister of New Zealand, made such a decision earlier this year, she was applauded for her gracious departure from office. But what made her exit so timely?

Leaving a job can be a difficult and emotional process, but understanding when it's time to move on and pursue new opportunities is an essential part of personal and professional growth. Indeed, quitting can sometimes be as much a step forwards, as much as a step back. For Jacinda Ardern, burnout was the main reason for her stepping aside. But it was also about doing the best thing for her political party and her country.

Understanding when to quit your job requires self-reflection and a deep understanding of your priorities and values. A leader with high emotional intelligence will be able to recognise the signs that it's time to leave and make a well-informed decision.

In this article, we'll explore the factors that contribute to the decision to quit a leadership role and the importance of timing in making that decision.

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When to quit your job

When to quit your job

If you're unsure whether it's time to quit your job, it's important to take some time to think about what factors are influencing your decision to quit? By understanding the signs that it's time to move on, you can make an informed decision and take control of your career path.

Here are some common signs that could indicate that it's time to step down from your role as a leader:

You've achieved what you set out to do

As a leader, it's important to set clear goals for yourself and regularly evaluate your progress. If you've achieved what you set out to do in your current role, it may be time to move on to tackle new challenges. Whether it's launching a successful project, reaching a personal career goal or simply feeling like you've maximised your potential in your current role, recognising when you've accomplished your objectives is a sign that it may be time to quit your job.

The company's values and culture have moved on

One of the most important factors to consider when deciding whether to leave your job is whether the company's values align with your own. If the company's culture, policies or practices no longer match your personal beliefs, it can make it difficult to be fulfilled and motivated in your work. In these cases, it's important to assess whether staying in your current role is worthwhile, or whether it's time to move on and find a company that's a better fit with your personal and professional values.

You've decided to change for personal growth or change of career

Personal growth and career advancement are important factors in any leader's decision to quit their job. If you're feeling stagnant in your current role or feel compelled to explore new opportunities, quitting your job may be the right choice.

It's essential to reflect on your career goals and assess whether your current job is helping you reach them, or whether it's time to take a step back and explore new opportunities. This could mean switching industries, taking on a new challenge or simply seeking out a company that will provide more opportunities for growth and development.

The company is going through significant changes or downsizing

Significant changes within a company can be a sign that it's time to step down as a leader. If the company that you work for is undergoing restructuring, staying in your role may no longer align with your career goals. In this case, quitting your job may be necessary to preserve your sense of fulfilment and purpose. It's important to evaluate the long-term implications of any changes in the company structure, and make a decision that will allow you to continue to grow and succeed in your career.

You're being offered a better opportunity

Being offered a better opportunity is a perfectly acceptable reason for stepping down from a leadership role. If a new role offers a better chance to fulfil your career goals, provides greater opportunities for growth and development, a better work-life balance or simply a better salary, you must feel confident in putting your own career and well-being first.

When not to quit your job

When not to quit your job

While quitting your job can be the right decision in many cases, there are also times when it may not be the best move. For example, if you're facing temporary challenges, it may be more appropriate to seek support rather than leaving your role.

Burnout is a common issue that many leaders face. If you're feeling overwhelmed, exhausted or simply unable to keep up with the demands of your role, quitting your job may seem like the only option. However, burnout is often a temporary issue that can be resolved with the right support. For example, taking a break, seeking counselling or simply making changes to your work routine can help you overcome burnout and regain your energy and motivation. Quitting your job may only make the problem worse, as you may face similar challenges in your next role if you don't address the underlying causes of burnout.

Similarly, if you're facing other temporary problems, such as a difficult coworker or a challenging project, quitting your job may not be the best solution. Instead, it's important to identify the root cause of the issue and work to resolve it. This may involve seeking support from HR, speaking with your supervisor or simply changing your approach to the situation. By working through these challenges, you can build your resilience and problem-solving skills, making you a more effective leader.

How to quit your job: a step by step

How to quit your job: a step by step

So, you've decided that it's time to move on. Here, we'll discuss the steps involved in quitting with dignity, while setting yourself up for your next career move.

1. Be professional

When quitting your job as a leader, it's important to be professional and help minimise disruption to your team and the organisation wherever possible. This means providing adequate notice, avoiding negativity and staying positive throughout the process.

By being professional, you can maintain your reputation and build positive relationships with your coworkers, which can benefit you in the future.

2. Preparing your team for your exit

As a leader, your departure will likely have a significant impact on your team, so it's important to prepare them for your exit. Communicate your plans, answer their questions with honesty and help them understand the changes that will happen as a result of your departure.

You may also want to provide your team with additional support during the transition, such as helping them find an interim leader or coach while they wait for a more permanent replacement.

3. Decide what you need to accomplish before you leave

Before you quit your job, it's important to assess what you can still get done before your departure, whether that's completing a project you set in motion, delivering a presentation or training a successor.

By focusing on your remaining responsibilities, you can ensure that you end your role on a high note and leave your team feeling supported.

4. Set your successor up for success

If your successor is already lined up for the role, it's your responsibility to ensure that they have everything that they need to lead with success. This may involve training them, providing them with support and resources and helping them understand the challenges that they may face in their new role.

By supporting your successor, you can help ensure a smooth transition and leave a positive impact on the organisation.

5. Leave a positive legacy (and use it to find a new role)

Your legacy as a leader is a huge aspect of your professional reputation, so it's important to consider how you can leave a positive impact on the organisation. This could mean implementing new initiatives, creating processes or developing talent.

By doing this, you can build a positive reputation and leverage your reputation when seeking new opportunities. After all, you never know when you might need referrals in the future.

6. End on a high

When quitting your job, it's always nice to end on a high note and leave a positive impression. That could mean any number of things depending on your company culture – whether it's delivering a final report or taking your team out for a celebration to thank them for all of their hard work, even the smallest effort could go a long way in preserving relationships that could benefit you in the future.

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