Several weeks ago, I led an exercise with my team in our weekly staff meeting. I asked everyone to write a letter of resignation. I quickly clarified that the letter of resignation was merely an exercise, an opportunity for each of us to evaluate our leadership. And I gave each person a week to pray, think, and jot down their very personal and very private letter. My direct reports shared their letter with me, not with the whole team.
The assignment was simply to imagine you were leaving your leadership role now. What do you wish you had done differently? What decisions do you wish you had made, conversations you wish you had had, and risks you wish you had taken? If someone else was coming into your role, what should this person do that you have not done?
It is good to remind ourselves that our leadership is merely temporary stewardship, that God in His providence has put us in our roles for a season. The ministry is ultimately His, not ours. And unless the Lord returns, someone else will steward the responsibility in the future.
The conversations that have emerged since the “letter exercise” have been clarifying and fruitful. Clarifying in the sense that the exercise helped leaders, myself included, remember the sacred stewardship we have been entrusted with. And clarifying in the sense that pretending you are leaving helps you remember the essential priorities in your role. Fruitful in the sense that the exercise encouraged leaders to make decisions they know they should be making and have conversations they know they should be having.
Moses prayed, “[Lord,] teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts” (Psalm 90:12). Your days in your leadership role are numbered. They are already fixed and set. You have a finite amount of time to lead in your current context. It is wise to evaluate the stewardship of your role. If you are a leader, occasionally resign in your mind. And then make the appropriate changes now.
If you want to do the exercise with your team, I suggest:
- Give the assignment one week in staff meeting. As you give the assignment, encourage people to focus only on themselves and their leadership—not on others, a strategy they don’t control, or a culture that is beyond their influence. This is an exercise about their leadership, not about something beyond their influence.
- Have each team member send you his/her letter privately.
- Discuss the letter with each person alone. Discuss the priorities or changes that have emerged from the exercise.