There are three things every leader who resigns or retires needs to be aware of. It is true in the for profit, nonprofit, political and ministry world. I have experienced all three and watched it play out in politics, business and ministry every day. It is well to be aware of these issues because they are not going to feel fair, and often are not but they are reality in a world that needs scapegoats.
First, no matter how well you led, in most cases, the one who takes your place will blame you for all that they can as they chart their new course. I was amused when one of my successors took some cheap shots about my leadership style after I left (to my face). Amused because he had served on my senior leadership team for some time and had never expressed his concerns to me until I was finished and then I was fair game. Equally amused, because when he is gone, his successor is probably going to do the same to him and some who have subsequently left have already done so! Unfortunately, this is the human condition and it will happen when you leave to some extent or another. We lead and serve for a time and when we are gone, others will criticize us to attain their own ends. Witness the transition in Washington DC when a new President comes to office!
Second, many things will change from how you did things to how the new leader will do things. This is natural but not always comfortable. If we have done our job well, the general philosophy of the organization will be embedded and remain stable but the details as to how these are are carried out will change. A highly empowering leader can be followed by a highly controlling leader (or vice versa) which can be a challenge for those who make the transition. The reality is that we served our time and carried out our leadership responsibilities in the best way we knew how. What happens next is not our responsibility and our former colleagues will make their own judgements relative to the new leadership philosophy.
Third, former leaders are just that – former leaders and need to move on to their next assignment. All of us learn lessons, good and bad as leaders. Wise leaders take the time to reflect on those lessons as they transition to a new role. The best thing we can do as former leaders is to focus on our new assignment, whatever that is and leave the old (for us) behind. We will answer for the stewardship of our leadership and others will answer for theirs. For those who operate out of a faith perspective this means that we leave the results of our leadership to God and move on, confident in God’s evaluation rather than in our own or the judgement of others. This last point is very important. We will often feel as if the evaluation of our successor is not fair. But we can rest assured that God's evaluation of our stewardship is totally fair.
Transitions are not easy but the come to each of us who lead. How we dealt with our leadership assignment is important, and how we deal with our leadership transition is equally important.