Quitting is leading too – my take on this lesson.

Blog I Quit
Quitting is leading too – my take on this lesson. I read a post by Sir Richard Branson recently published under the series ‘Books which changed my life’ on LinkedIn.  The book he wrote about was “Mandela’s Way: Lessons on Life, Love, and Courage” by Richard Stengel. In this book, the author managed to distill Madiba’s wisdom into a set of lessons that are as unique as they are simple, wrote Sir Richard Branson.  He went on to list the lessons as follows:


1.    Courage is not the absence of fear.
2.    Be measured.
3.    Lead from the front.
4.    Look the part.
5.    Lead from the back.
6.    See the good in others.
7.    Keep your rivals close.
8.    Have a core principle.
9.    Know when to say no.
10.    Know your enemy.
11.    It’s always both.
12.    Love makes the difference.
13.    It’s a long game.
14.    Quitting is leading too.
15.    Find your own gardenThe one unique lesson which resonated with me was quitting is leading too. This is so because by and large popular belief holds that quitting is not virtuous.  In fact, many would be heard in conversations proclaiming that they were no quitters.   Bringing it closer to home, I’ve always held the view that in life, it was noble to hold on to a dream, a vision so tightly that if it meant quitting a task, a project, a job in order to realize your passion elsewhere, it is acceptable to quit.  For what is the point of holding onto anything that is not taking you to your envisioned destination?This explains why in Business, we hear of projects that are discontinued owing to forecasts indicating stated objectives would not be realized, resulting in committed funds being withdrawn or written off.  The attitude here is that it would be too costly and unjustifiable to carry on with the project in the face of imposed or unforeseen socio economic and related factors which negatively impact it.  This of course excludes quitting (terminating) projects owing to malpractices involving misuse of resources, etc.   Quitting for the right reasons, is indicative of foresight which says unless change is made, the journey is not taking anyone anywhere near the desired future.  This is characteristic of accountable leadership, capable of saying let’s stop, overhaul this, and start doing things differently for this and that to yield desired results.

Yes, quitting is leading too, especially for visionary leadership, which gets typically dissatisfied with an unproductive status quo.  The vision of the future becomes so intense that the fear of quitting recedes into a place where it never returns.  What follows there after are legendary break troughs, which come about as a result of higher levels of inspiration and development for all involved.

Where fear to quit is real and present, people accept the status quo even though they are not happy with it.  In the context of running a Business, some people would keep a contract with a supplier, employee and or with Business Associates, all out of fear of the likely negative consequences of directly communicating their unhappiness and intention to quit.  In the end, they say if only I got out of this or that early!

Stubbornness not to quit would also show itself where all performance and other key indicators show that someone is failing to rise to the expectations of the Business but still carry on regardless.  They do this without having regard to the negative impact this could have on their own person, to the Business and others directly or indirectly impacted by such stubbornness.  Often reasons for refusal to quit are self serving, egoistic and clearly not in the interest of the greater good of others.  To them quitting is a sign of weakness…no, no they must not be seen to be failing.  Others would spend fortunes in propping up failed missions, just so that it doesn’t seem like they are quitting a market.

A case in point in recent times, is that some RSA Businesses have been foraging into what is arguably the most difficult Nigerian Market.  MTN in the telecoms industry is the only firm that seems to have had notable success.  Others have reportedly burnt their fingers – in Business speak.  However most of them showed leadership and quitted this market before they could further erode their shareholder value.

Quitting is leading too in all aspects of human life as we pursue our quest for happiness either through work, sport, hobbies and personal and Business relationships that we engage in.  However this changes where we pursue money for the sake of it.  The love of money forces us to ignore our unhappiness, and dissatisfaction with what we are confronted with.  We declare this everyday by saying, ‘you know what? this pays the bills’ and thus we  get stuck on to the most untenable of circumstances.  In the process we end up with all sorts of personal and health challenges with dire consequences in the long run.

Assertive leadership requires us to honestly and directly appraise every workplace situation and quit if we must, thereby providing much needed leadership to your self (career/health wise), family (for their welfare) and to society (allow other people to thrive and grow).  Desperately holding on to anything forces us to compromise the very values that we need in the long run, bearing in mind, it’s a long game!

Understanding and knowing when to quit is key.  However, the idea of quitting is leading too, is not suggesting that it is okay to quit when the going gets tough.  No, far from it.  A captain who abandons the ship when it matters most is no leader to write home about.  In fact doing so is being irresponsible and borders on outright cowardice.

Leading by quitting ensures that all involved are raised to higher levels of motivation and moral growth in all respects.  People who lead by quitting ensure that they have done everything in their power that there is sustainability, continuity and legacy long after they are gone.  They don’t’ simply up and go.  To them, quitting serves only as a springboard to things bigger and better, not for themselves but for the greater good of others.  At least, this is my take on this lesson by uTata uMadiba, whose leadership outlook and life made him into the eternal legend that he is.