“I had to quit! The environment around me was growing toxic and suffocating. I had become less influential, my conscience was confused and I was having sleepless nights.”
These were the words of a CXO I met last week. After nearly two decades with the organization, a spate of troubling developments around her led to this fateful decision.
So, what went wrong? How does a leader who has grown the organization from a few hundred people to over 20,000 today handle seismic shifts in her landscape? Probing further, here is what I gathered –
– a new set of management members had settled above her, a few years ago
– these new leaders had a far more aggressive style
– they enforced unilateral decisions
– previously thought employee-friendly initiatives were overturned
– no amount of push back helped shift the ground to the previous normal.
The CXO felt very lonely, despite spending two-decades in the organization building global relationships, growing her reputation and created a world-class center of excellence for global processes moved to India and the region.
She was well known for her high integrity, empathetic nature, collaborative functioning and for creating a stable leadership team across geographies. People widely admired her leadership qualities and felt shell-shocked by her resignation a day before I met her.
When it becomes clear that the environment is toxic and dysfunctional, leaders have to take a very conscious stand on whether their integrity (and that of the organization) comes before their self-interest. Compromising on their self-respect, values, obligations, accountability and ethics will be a downhill path.
If all diligent efforts have gone in vain, it is time to lay down your arms than fight a mammoth that won’t budge. CXOs/Leaders rather invest their leadership strengths in ventures that value these qualities than waste their prime years in stressful, mind-draining and vicious politicking. Furthermore, they should exit situations that could muddy their reputation more than be remembered for what they were always recognized for. It’s time to Quit!