6 Tell Tale Signs That It Is Time For A Transition As A Leader, and a few tips on how to handle it.

SUMMARY: Transitions are never easy, but there are some that are handled well and others not so well. In this Resolute Leadership Podcast, Vince Miller hosts Wayne Pederson, president emeritus of Reach Beyond an international ministry providing the message of Jesus Christ to nations across the world. Listen as Wayne shares about his transition from his presidency, how he knew it was time, and the lessons he learned.



Vince: This is Resolute and the Resolute Leadership Podcast. I am Vince Miller, your founder, and host. And today we’re in a series on leadership. Today discussing the topic of leadership transitions.

Welcome to the program. If this is your first time tuning in, well thank you for joining us. Our mission at Resolute is to disciple and develop men to lead. If you’re looking for content for your men’s group or men’s ministry, then you need to go to our website today at beresolute.org. We have a number of great tools for men who are leading other men – including a number of new small group videos and series, that you would love for your men’s groups. But now, let’s dive in.

Today I’m joined by Wayne Peterson, who is the former President of Reach Beyond, which is an international ministry that takes the gospel to the farthest reaches of the planet through modern media. Wayne has also served with Moody Radio and KTIS as well for decades. And he brings a lot of leadership expertise with him. Wayne, welcome to the show.

Wayne: Good to be back. This feels very much at home behind the microphone here, Vince.

Vince: I know. You worked for a couple of different radio stations, right?

Wayne: Well I was at the University of Northwestern for 34 years as manager of KTIS AM and FM. And Vice President of Media at Northwestern.

Vince: Yeah.

Wayne: And then I spent 5 years at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. I was managing their Chicago radio station, WMBI. And then I was Director – actually Vice President of broadcasting at Moody. Before God called me to do global radio through HCJB, now called Reach Beyond. And our ministry there was planning community based, evangelistic radio stations in some of the least reached places of the world. So HCJB has planted about 500 radio stations around the world – all owned and operated by local people that know the language and know the culture.

Vince: I know, how about that? That is – when we start taking the gospel to the world, and people start to experience it in indigenous cultures – I mean, the gospel can expand in amazing ways. And so thank you for the many years of work that you devoted your life to. And I know this is a very – a normal place for you, right here behind the mic. But let’s talk a little about a different subject.

Let’s talk about leadership transitions. ‘Cause you share a little bit of your career there, at least a small picture of it. And I’m sure that you’ve experienced some good transitions and bad transitions. As I watch as a young leader and look out at the – the men who are– Men and women who are transitioning in the world today – I can see that there can be some really bad experiences as big leaders. Major leaders of organizations begin to make a transition out, and new ones make transitions in. I’m sure you’ve heard a story or 2 that hasn’t gone well.

Wayne: Yes, and there are some that we’re all familiar with. It can happen sometimes when a Pastor maybe stays too long or leaves reluctantly. It can happen when leadership is transferred, but the former leader doesn’t really let go and give the new leader room. There are times when it hasn’t been handled well by the board. There are times when maybe the successor has not been developed. If you’re looking for an internal candidate and there’s no – been no leadership development take place within the organization. And so the organization is forced to look outside.

And so yeah, there are plenty of potholes along the way when the CEO or President comes to the time where he says, “It’s time to transfer, it’s time to transition.” And there are ways you can know when it’s time.

Vince: So how to do you know when it’s time then? Like if there’s a leader out there, or an organization out there kinda asking that question – how do you know when it is time?

Wayne: Well I just stepped aside in this past year. I turned 70 here a few weeks ago. And thought – number 1 – the odometer had reached the point where it was time to give new leadership an opportunity. But even more strategic than that, Vince is – number 1 – when you’ve lost your pattern for what you do. And it’s no longer a matter of passion, it’s a matter of routine – dull, boring routine.

Secondly, and I’ll be real transparent here. When things annoy you that shouldn’t annoy you. When you get to the point of the job, that this is bothering you, or this person is annoying you. And you’re just getting irritable. It’s time to stop doing what you’re doing. Number 3 – if you feel that you have accomplished some of your goals. What you set out to do 5 years, 10 years ago, 20 years ago. You’ve accomplished those goals, you’ve seen the organization running smoothly now. And you’ve kind of finished a phase. And it’s time to step aside, and let somebody else take it from here.

The other thing, I would say – would be is this number 5 – you’ve run out of ideas. And I’ve – I don’t have any fresh, creative ideas anymore. I’ve run out, I’ve tried everything and – I just don’t have any new, fresh ideas. Maybe it’s time to bring in somebody else that has fresh ideas, can bring to the organization, and help the organization grow into the next step.

Vince: I like all those. So I don’t know if everybody caught those, but they were very good. It was – lost passion, it’s things become routine, things annoy you–

Wayne: Yeah.

Vince: I like that one. You’ve accomplished your goals, or you’re running out of ideas.

Wayne: Yeah.

Vince: And I think you could probably – for some guys out there, they’re probably check-listing 1 or 2 or 3 – maybe 5 of those things right now. And that could be an indication that – that maybe it’s time. But it– But it takes a lot of humility.

Wayne: It does, yeah sure–

Vince: To admit those things are on the list, and you just checked them off, right? Like did you feel that way when you – you stepped in to your period of transition? Was it hard to recognize these things?

Wayne: It was not for me. I was ready. And the – the 8 years that I served HCJB, now called Reach Beyond – I felt my role was to prepare the organization for the next generation of leadership. It was a big transition. We sold things, we closed down ministries that weren’t relevant anymore. We kind of re – re-sized ourselves. And I did a lot of heavy lifting there, closing some vintage ministries that should’ve been closed years ago. And that’s not a popular thing to do.

But the new guy that followed me, Steve Harling, the new President said, “Wayne did all this heavy lifting, so I can really fly right now.” And to hear him say that made me feel very good.

Vince: Yeah.

Wayne: ‘Cause that was my goal – prepare Reach Beyond for the next generation of leadership. So for me, it wasn’t hard. I was obvious and emotionally, intellectually, spiritually I was ready. I guess the other thing I would add to that, Vince – is number 6. I was tired.

Vince: Yeah, I know.

Wayne: Because leadership is hard. And I was emotionally tired. And the day September 1st, that the new President took over – I felt this tremendous weight lifted off of my shoulders – that I wasn’t carrying the 24/7 burden of the ministry anymore.

Vince: Yeah, I’ve heard you talk about that before. Just that – it felt like scales were falling off, right?

Wayne: Yeah.

Vince: And I – I think it’s really beautiful what you’re saying. You may not know this about me Wayne, but I’ve served as an interim Senior Pastor 4 times for mid-sized churches. And I tell you, when you come into that, there’s a focus on transition. It’s intentional, right?

Wayne: Yes, right.

Vince: And but what I saw many, many times was reluctant. And it’s not always this way. But reluctant senior leaders forced to leave.

Wayne: Yeah.

Vince: And they leave catastrophe in the path for the next generation. And then – there I was. I was cleaning it up, but with that focus on saying, “Look, I’m going to prepare.” That changed – actually how I look at leadership today.

Wayne: Yeah.

Vince: It, it – it actually multiplied something in my heart, that I think all leaders need a taste of. It’s – are you willing to be open handed with the things that God has given you, and do you have a mindset – not for yourself, but for transition, right? Did you discover the beauty of that in those, in those moments that you were handing the baton to the next guy?

Wayne: Absolutely felt that very much. I’m reminded of what Stuart Briscoe, a very successful, famous Pastor from Milwaukee said – when he turned 60, every year he would ask his elders, “Is it time for me to step aside?” He said – intentionally, he started doing that every– “You tell me when it’s time. I may not know, and I’m counting on you to tell me when it’s time.” I mean, that takes a lot of humility and vulnerability to do that and humility. So I – I always – when I left, people said, “I wish you would stay longer.” And I thought, “Well I’d rather leave while you still want me here, than to say ‘I wish he’d leave pretty soon,'” as in a time.

Vince: Oh that’s – that’s, that’s a great point, right? To leave on a high note. And then to hear accolades from your predecessor, right? Like to hear that – yeah, I did do some hard work. And you’re recognized for that. And man, you can let go of that thing and say, “I did the hard work, here you go – take the baton.” I know guys like me would love to see more guys like you.

Of course, we have a couple of examples of this in the Bible. I think the one predominant example is Moses, right? Where he appoints Joshua, seeks guidance. And then in Numbers 27 – you probably know these verses – it’s 22 through 23. He says, “He took Joshua, and had him stand before Eleazar, the Priest, and the whole assembly. And then he laid hands on him and ordained him.”

I mean that was like a very physical thing that happened. And it’s like, “Look, this is a baton transfer here.” So how do you do it? Is there any little bits of advice you have for the guys out there that may be thinking it’s time for a leadership transition – on advice on how you do this, Wayne?

Wayne: I would say, first of all – obvious, but it shouldn’t – go without saying, pray about it.

Vince: Yeah.

Wayne: Ask, ask the Holy Spirit to direct you about the timing and the way you do that. Secondly, be – if you’re married, be very transparent with your spouse. And don’t, don’t pull a surprise on – on your spouse. Pray, discuss how are we going to live if you don’t have a salary anymore? And I remember 1 question my wife asked me – what are you going to do with your ego when you’re not in charge anymore?

Vince: Yeah. There you go.

Wayne: That type of a thing. Only a wife can ask those kinds of questions.

Vince: Yeah, that’s right.

Wayne: But thirdly, I would say – work with your board. And give them early on – if you’re a Pastor with the Board of Elders, of if you’re a leader of a Parachurch ministry with your board of directors. And say – I’m feeling that in 1 year, 2 years – whatever. And I think 1 year is not too long. 2 years is a good kind of a timetable to give the board a heads up that you’re thinking about stepping aside. That’s what I did.

And through various discussions – and the search went very quickly, and it ended up being just a little over a year the process took. But they had a heads up earlier on. And to alert your elder chair or your board chair of your intentions, and give them time to process that, “Oh, this guy’s leaving, and we need to start thinking about how this ministry’s going to run without him any longer.”

Vince: Yeah.

Wayne: And along with this, Vince – the big question is – do you – do you find an internal candidate, and do you find an external candidate? And that’s always a tough question. The transitions I’ve made – I’ve not had a strong internal candidate, and the board had to go outside. And maybe that’s to – that’s my fault because I hadn’t developed leadership around me. There’s no right or wrong answer to this.

An internal candidate has the experience and the – the exposure with the organization. But they may not be the ones to take it to the next level. And somebody from outside coming on with fresh ideas and new networking skills may be the answer. So I think it’s important to develop your replacement if you can internally. But if you can’t use a leadership, be networking with people outside the organization that might some day come in and takes your job.

Vince: Right, right. Love it. So pray, be transparent with your spouse. Work with your board, and then just focus on developing the people around you and – yeah – I agree with you. Sometimes that candidate may be there, and sometimes maybe not. And that’s okay, just work and be diligent in the process. Well, Wayne, thank you so much for being with us again.

Wayne: Boy this time has gone very, very quickly. But God always has his person. His man or woman to lead the organization during that season. And don’t feel that you are irreplaceable. Nobody is irreplaceable. God always has a man. God always has a woman that can step in. Moses had Joshua, Elijah had Elijah. And it should work biblically, it should work practically.

Vince: Yeah. We are – we are not– We’re not a single entity. We are 14:21 replaced. Those are great words, Wayne. Well we look forward to maybe one more podcast, and thank you so much. And that’s the show, thanks for listening. As we close, I want to remind you that we have great content for your men’s groups, excellent small group videos and participant handbooks that will empower the men of your church to lead, and equip them to build the men around them.

Check it all out at beresolute.org, or send me a direct email at [email protected]. Well, guys, I hope you enjoyed this podcast. But please know that the time that we spent together today is worthless unless you choose to act on it. So do something today, please – something, anything. By getting off the bench and into the game. And I’ll see you right back here next time on another edition of the Resolute Podcast.