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"Learning faster than your competitors is the only sustainable competitive advantage in an environment of rapid change."
Arie deGues

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A colleague of mine begins her sabbatical next week and I will be only one of many who will miss her. I've been thinking then about absence, and about what happens when leaders leave an organization, what does it mean for the organization and the people it serves?

1. Although there are obvious exceptions, leaders often don't leave organizations that can't be left. Often, when a leader leaves, it's because they know that the organization will thrive in their absence. (Part of the transition period after a leader leaves is in fact the growing pains as the organization comes to it's own conclusion that it will thrive in their absence.)

2. Leaders need sabbatical, opportunities to rest, reflect, learn and grow. Upon their return, they're stronger, rested and their curiosity and engagement renewed and re-engaged, and that is very good for the organization and the people it serves. If it is at all possible, take sabbatical for yourself, and for your organization.

3. Organizations need change in leaders, as people in the organization need to learn new skills and processes without a particular leader and often it is only when that leader leaves that people are forced to grow and learn in that particular and often necessary direction.

And because an a vital part of leadership is self-leadership, my colleague's departure on sabbatical also raises an important question for us individually; what parts of our individual psyche do we need to let go of, so we can thrive and grow without them? Specifically are there behaviours that may have worked in the past, but now no longer are as helpful? For example, for me, my sense of humour has been a great skill for me, and it continues to be, but when and where I use it requires more discernment now as a leader than when I was first starting out in my career. 

May we all find not only the right time to join an organization, but the right time to leave.