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The Fast Company Executive Board is a private, fee-based network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.

Is it time to step out of the chief executive spotlight?

Seven points to ponder—whether you are ready to focus on other parts of the business or want to distance yourself completely from the company.

Is it time to step out of the chief executive spotlight?
Members of Fast Company Executive Board share their expert insights. [Image: Courtesy of the individual members.]

After years of building a career and maintaining a successful brand in the business, it may be a difficult choice to walk away from your role as CEO—even though you’ve outgrown the position and are seeking new challenges away from the day-to-day tasks.

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Before you determine how to repurpose your passion for business, you must assess the state of your organization, its current systems, and processes to help your team continue to prosper once you’ve made a graceful exit.

To assist you with tips and next steps for planning a smooth leadership transition, seven Fast Company Executive Board members weigh in on some key factors to consider on your way out the door.

1.  DECIDE HOW TO USE YOUR TALENT.

Often a CEO is hired with a specific goal in mind. They got the role because achieving the objective is their superpower. Once achieved, it is time to decide if they can or want to pivot. You may figure out a place to use your talents or restructure your team, take a more focused or board executive role, or possibly work on a succession plan to leave the organization equipped to sustain the gains you’ve worked so hard to achieve. – Steve Dion, Dion Leadership

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2. IDENTIFY YOUR BIGGEST STRENGTHS.

You have to know and be honest about your strengths, what aspect of the business you are most passionate about and to which you can contribute the most. In order to give yourself the flexibility to go toward your strengths, be sure to invest in building a strong direct reports team, have a successor, and empower your team with the skills, coaching, processes and capabilities so you are not a daily dependency. – Amy Radin, Pragmatic Innovation Partners LLC

3. FIND YOUR SUCCESSOR.

When you give the company the best of you, then, and only then is it time to step down. Stepping down from that role means that you’ve been a great leader and you’ve provided your team with all the tools they need to grow. Now you can hire someone for the CEO position that will magnify its potential. With your knowledge, you can focus on growth and human interactions that will bring real value. – Brandon Pena, BrandON Media Group

4. CONSIDER YOUR BUSINESS NEEDS.

You need to constantly assess the needs of the business and if you are the best person to lead. The most effective CEOs are the most introspective and understand their strengths. At some point, the company will need a different set of strengths to grow, scale, turn around, transform, go public, go private, or more at that time. A great CEO will turn over the reins to the next leader. – Paola Doebel, Ensono

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5. ENABLE A SMOOTH LEADERSHIP TRANSITION.

The right time to step down as company CEO is when someone else can step into your role without any disruptions to order and quality. Obviously, the money and stability need to be there in order for you to be able to promote from within and hire. But, when the machine is well oiled then it’s time to consider stepping into a new role. – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency

6. WEIGH IN ON WORK-LIFE BALANCE.

There are many reasons why a CEO might need to step back. In some cases, they are no longer serving the brand. In other cases, they simply no longer have the energy required to steer the ship on a daily basis. Sometimes, there is a pressing personal reason for stepping back. Constantly checking in with oneself and one’s team is the best way to calibrate this major decision. – Camille Preston, AIM Leadership, LLC

7. ELEVATE YOUR SYSTEMS AND PROCESSES.

A business does not become a real business until the founder or CEO can spend time working on the business and not in the business. Graduating to this point requires a keen focus on implementing critical systems, processes, and people to make things run smoothly. Without it, the business is not only not as valuable to a buyer, but the owner can’t even take a vacation! – Tyrone Foster, InvestNet, LLC

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