By Tina Irgang
Ted Cruz surprised pundits this week by bowing out of the presidential race, following a loss to rival Donald J. Trump in the crucial Indiana primary. A day later, John Kasich, whose path to the nomination was even steeper, followed suit. What lessons does this hold for your own exit? When is the right time to quit fighting a losing battle?
Even before the votes were counted in Indiana, it was clear that both Cruz’s and Kasich’s case for staying in the race was in definite trouble. A CNN poll published the day before the primary found that 52 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents thought both candidates should drop out, given the fact that it was already mathematically impossible for them to capture a majority of delegates for the nomination.
As a CEO, you probably shouldn’t wait that long. In terms of business leadership, the survey results roughly translate to losing the support of a majority of your employees or clients. “You can’t succeed as a leader if you attempt to go at it alone. The success of a leader requires strong followership that is earned over time. … Without employees that trust them, leaders have short-term, artificial influence, at best,” notes Forbes.
When is it time to quit?
Let’s assume you don’t have immediate plans to launch an anonymous employee survey featuring the question “Should I resign?” So what other signs should you watch for on your way to the exit?
It starts with getting out of bed in the morning. “It’s definitely time to turn over the reins or get out of a business when you find yourself not wanting to go to work every day,” notes Inc. We all have trouble getting up every once in a while, but when it becomes a daily phenomenon, you’re headed for trouble. “Unfortunately, this feeling sort of creeps up on you, kind of like gaining weight. It’s difficult for most of us to get our arms around it, because it’s a gradual disenchantment. In fact, some people unfortunately stay in business too long, and the resulting bad attitude tends to cascade through the whole company. At that point, it becomes too late to step aside,” says Inc.
In fact, most CEOs hang on too long, says Forbes: “Most of the time, the CEO just keeps marching on, with hope as the strategy. … Usually, the business underperforms, with results slipping each year.”
It’s all the more important to heed those early warning signs, which include, according to Inc.:
- You dread interviews and hiring.
- You hate going to meetings.
- Your company’s growth has leveled off.
- You find yourself lashing out at employees or customers.
But what if you know your company is a sinking ship — do you, as the captain, have a moral obligation to go down with it? “The idea that the captain should stick around to help only makes sense where the captain’s services continue to be seen as having value,” says Canadian Business. In other words, it might not be too late for someone else to get the ship back on course, so stepping aside is in fact the right thing to do.
That brings us back to Cruz and Kasich. For months leading up to the Indiana primary, Cruz argued that the time had already come for Kasich to step aside, arguing Kasich had little voter support and was effectively sabotaging the “Never Trump” effort.
If Kasich had made his exit then, would the aftermath of the Indiana primary look different? We’ll never know, but the lessons of a good, timely CEO exit suggest it would have been at least the strategically prudent thing to do.
Tina Irgang is the production editor for SmartCEO. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.