It’s the holidays. People are feeling warm and friendly. Good cheer is in the air. So I want to talk about saying goodbye!

I’m having some fun with this, obviously, and I don’t mean to start your holidays with a heavy Leading Thoughts. I do, though, want to free you from some undue burden that may, one day, come your way.

Most leaders are relational people. They draw meaning and significance from those they lead. They want everyone they lead to be content and to be at their side forever.

Understandably, then, it is devastating when someone leaves. I’ve watched leaders bleed and cry for weeks because someone in their firm resigned. I get it. This can hurt. You want people close and committed for life.

Hear this. It ain’t goin’ to happen! People will leave. Their destiny will take them in different directions. They will no longer feel themselves part of what you’re building. They might leave peacefully. Or they might make a stink as they go. Still, people will always go. Settle this in your soul. People will leave. And it’s a good thing.

The eminent pastor T.D. Jakes says it this way. He says that not everyone is meant to be part of your story forever. Some are part of that story for short seasons. Some for longer seasons. Few are part of your story forever. You have to let them go, he says. Don’t beg them to stay. Don’t promise to change yourself or plead or make bargains to keep people part of your life when it is their time to go. In fact, T.D. jokes that he has the “gift of goodbye.” He’s playing of course, but what he is saying is that he doesn’t want anyone to stay part of his story beyond what God intends, beyond what is ordained, and what is best and most productive. You have to let people go when it is time for them to go.

Now, obviously, T.D. and I are not talking about parents and spouses and children. Those relationships are meant to be forever. Yet the friends and the people you work with, they will come and go. They grace your life and then leave. You miss them. Perhaps you grieve for a season. But don’t make the mistake of holding on to them when they try to go.

See if this helps you. If people are meant to be with you, they can’t leave. If they aren’t meant to be with you, they can’t stay. Love them. Miss them. Don’t grasp them beyond what is right. If they want to or need to go, let them. Bless them. Honor them. But let them go.

Huge leadership mistakes are made in this arena. Some leaders either hold onto people for too long, or they take people leaving as a lasting commentary on their leadership. It ain’t so. It is the way it ought to be. Get used to it. The best things in life are seasonal.

Two things. I want you to get and read a book by my friend, Dr. Henry Cloud. It is called Necessary Endings. If you struggle with all I’ve said above, read this book. Second, listen to T.D. Jakes expand on this theme. He may not be your cup of tea as a pastor, but he is a wise man and particularly on this subject. Steep in his words if this is a weakness of yours.

Some will stay. Some will leave. Love them all. Let those who want to leave, or who need to leave, go. This is healthy leadership. The leavings usually aren’t commentaries on you. Know when they are. Fix what is wrong. Make peace with the change.