Whether you lead a church, non-profit, business, athletic team, or educational staff, it is very naive to think relationships will last forever.  There often comes a time when it is determined leaders must go their separate ways.  Before looking at the reasons why, allow me to say maintaining the personal relationship should be of the utmost priority.

This past Friday, Cleveland Cavaliers superstar point guard Kyrie Irving shocked the sporting world by requesting a trade.  It is being widely reported he has grown tired of playing alongside LeBron James and wants to be the focal point of his own team.  This complex relationship was explored in this ESPN article written by Ramona Shelburne, Dave McMenamin and Brian Windhorst.

As I read their excellent article, I gleaned the following are 14 Signs It Is Time For Leaders To Go Their Separate Ways:

  1. There Is Silence But Not Compliance – James was famous for his passive-aggressive social media posts in dealing with team issues.  He has been playful this summer and silent on team issues.
  2. Competing Agendas – The Cavs’s agenda have traditionally been heavily influenced by James and his decisions.  With James potentially leaving at the conclusion of the 2017-18 season, Irving wanted to proactively control his own future.  After all, why should he be left with a team a year from now which was constructed around someone who would not even be there?  Time to take care of #1!  On the court, James controlled the ball the majority of the time.  Irving also wanted to play a more dominant role.
  3. Lack Of Perspective – While Irving may be unhappy, he did average a career-high 25.9 points per game last year.  He also shot 1.5 more shot per game than James.  And let’s not forget the team had made three consecutive NBA Finals, winning one.
  4. Personal Ambition – It has been reported Irving was no longer wishing to be viewed as James’s sidekick or “little brother”.  He wanted to be the centerpiece of his own team.
  5. Organizational Uncertainty – While James has not indicated he is leaving after next season, he has also not given any assurances he is staying.
  6. Exit Strategies Have Been Developed – Irving had been thinking about this and had a plan.  He gave owner Dan Gilbert a list of teams he would like to play for – San Antonio Spurs, Minnesota Timberwolves, Miami Heat, and the New York Knicks.
  7. Growing Discontent – Irving’s unhappiness is nothing new.  The team had been worried about Irving’s mindset for several months.
  8. Emotional Unhealthiness – Between Gilbert’s impulsive and volatile personality, James’s passive-aggressiveness, and Irving’s toughness on himself was a mixture which needed constant massaging.
  9. Preferential Treatment – James’s close friend, Randy Mims, is on the team’s staff and allowed to travel with the team.  None of Irving’s associates are afforded the same privilege.
  10. Lack Of Unity – General Manager David Griffin, who did what appears to be an excellent job, was not retained following the end of the season.  The team had no positional leader overseeing the draft or free agency.
  11. Lack Of Respect – Several trade packages were presented for Jimmy Butler and Paul George.  Some of these included Irving much to his disappointment.
  12. Missed Opportunities – There was a chance for James and Irving to meet after the season to discuss their differences but it never took place.
  13. Dissatisfaction Becomes Public – During Summer League action, Irving’s trade requests became know to his teammates.
  14. Great Leaders Have Many Options And Are Now Willing To Explore Them – When ESPN reported Irving’s wish to play elsewhere on July 1st, multiple teams began reaching out in hopes of securing his services.

Is there anything you learned from these lessons which may allow you to salvage your partnerships?


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