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Leadership is not Forever

Leadership is not Forever

Recently my wife and I were talking about a friend of ours who for most of his life displayed a brilliant business plan. He would start a certain kind of business in a community. Then he would hire an apprentice, show him the ropes, and eventually after building the business up sell it to his apprentice. Then he would go and start another one in a new community and repeat the process.

He did this over 30 times.

I started thinking about this at a red light while my wife sat in the passenger seat. I said, “You know, I think a church is the only place that doesn’t happen… If you put in the hard work of building up a church, you can’t sell it to someone like a business; even if that’s what the day to day operations are modeled after.”

You give it away.

Then my wife being the giant of brilliance PhD student she is- says,

“That’s because it’s a church.”

It wasn’t so much that I was unaware of this truth as much as hearing someone say it out loud brought all these implications to the surface for me.


This must be why corporations have defined retirement dates for their executives. If those in charge are not submitted to an overall plan, the thrust of what they are doing will not work in the long term.

Leadership is not forever. And there are no exceptions to that rule.

An airline pilot has the authority to enter the cockpit of an aircraft. He is qualified by skill, training, and experience to fly. He has the temperament and has passed the physical examination.

Together with the navigator, co-pilot, and attendants, he will fly that aircraft from Chicago to San Francisco. When he arrives in San Francisco, he will leave that plane, knowing that the next person has the competence, experience, and skill to handle the job as well as he did.

While he was sitting in the pilot’s seat, he had the authority to fly that airplane, but he did not own it. It was not his — it belonged to the airline. And when he arrived at the destination, he left the aircraft for somebody else to fly.

No matter what you accumulate in life (things, people, power) …

No matter what authority has been granted unto you…

May we all be awakened to the universal truth that we actually don’t own anything,

May our hearts be adjusted to the realization that we are not owners but managers.

And may we manage in a way that inspires the owner to say,

“well done.”



this article originally appeared in TheoMag