The ABC’s of Transition: Acknowledge the Realities

May 27, 2020

Every leader will sooner or later come to a time of a change of leadership. This transition may happen by choice, circumstances, God’s call, or simply the passing of time. So, all leaders are either coming from a transition, working on a current transition, or laying the foundation for a future transition!

As I write, I’m facing a significant transition in my own leadership. So perhaps I’m writing this for my own benefit, but I invite you to discover with me how servant leaders transition. We’ll examine the final transition of Moses’ life where he models the ABC’s of transition: Acknowledge the Realities, Bless the Successor, and Cherish the Relationships.

1Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho. There the LORD showed him the whole land—from Gilead to Dan, …. 4Then the LORD said to him, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.” 5And Moses the servant of the LORD died there in Moab, as the LORD had said. 6He buried him in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is. 7Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone.  The Israelites grieved for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days, until the time of weeping and mourning was over” (Deuteronomy 34:1, 4-8).

One moment Moses was a great leader of an entire nation. The next moment he transitioned to his eternal reward. The first thing servant leaders can learn from his transition is to acknowledge three realities.

Acknowledge the reality of what has been done. Moses had led the nation through some very difficult times. I’m sure as he climbed slowly up the mountain he reflected on the parting of the Red Sea, the 10 Commandments, the water from the rock, and other highlights of his 40 years of leadership. Much had been done.

Servant leaders acknowledge with gratitude to God all that has been accomplished. And when they have led well, much has been done. They are not proud of themselves but are able to celebrate the reality of what God has done!

Acknowledge the reality of what remains undone. God provided Moses with a glimpse of the land promised to his people. I can feel Moses’ pain as he heard God’s words, “You will not cross over into it.” For years Moses had kept the vision alive but now he was leaving, and much was undone.

When servant leaders face transition, they acknowledge that there are things which remain undone. Whether that is because of their own mistakes (as it was with Moses) or simply because the time has come to transition, they accept the reality that much remains undone. They understand that God’s vision is always greater than their own leadership and some aspects will not be achieved before they transition.

Acknowledge the reality of what will be done. As Moses scanned the land of Israel, he could see what would happen after he was gone. Another leader would do what he had not!

This painful reality is not easy for any leader to accept. Some leaders don’t acknowledge the reality that they are growing old! Or that they have done all they can do for the organization. Or that others are needed to step in with new gifts to breathe new life into the vision. But servant leaders learn from Moses to acknowledge this reality when it is time for transition.

Servant leaders in transition celebrate what has been done while acknowledging that God will use another leader to accomplish what remains undone. They acknowledge these realities as they follow God’s direction in transition. They cry out to God to guard their hearts against pride, jealously, or a sense of failure. They are willing to keep serving in the place to which God will lead them.

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

For further reflection and discussion:

  • In transitions I have observed, how have I seen leaders doing well at acknowledging the realities? How have I seen them not acknowledge realities?     
  • In previous transitions in my leadership, how well have I acknowledged what has been done, what remains to be done and what will be done?
  • In my current role, what do I need to do today to best prepare to transition well?

In the next issue, we’ll look at the “B” in the ABC’s of transitioning well:

Acknowledge the Realities

Bless the Successor

Cherish the Relationships