When a leader hits a brick wall

Everyone in Germany is talking about it – Jürgen Klopp is to quit Borussia Dortmund on July 1. The renowned coach seemed to be intertwined with his team like no other. Why quit when you are one of the most successful managers in German football history?


The announcement – an emotional press conference

According to German news outlet Spiegel Online, the press conference didn’t leave any doubts: Klopp alone decided to leave the club. He comments: ‘Personally, I would have hoped for it to never end. That’s why it was very hard to make this decision as a professional.’ Questions around a successor weren’t supposed to be asked at the press conference – only Klopp was meant to be at the center of attention. Regrets on all fronts. And again the question: why quit?


Knowing when it’s time to go

Reflecting on the need for change, Klopp said: ‘Borussia Dortmund deserves to have the absolutely one hundred per cent right coach.’ I am sure some people will blame him for not finishing his job. That’s why I think this move is even braver. It requires strength to admit to oneself and the public that one isn’t the right person for the job anymore, and that there are people who can do a better job with regards to the future. Because of my own career path, I can only try to guess how difficult this decision must have been for him. And because he decided in favor of his team, I can only congratulate Klopp.

An honorable goodbye

And who doesn’t want a farewell that’s hard for everyone. Mister Klopp chose the right time: while everyone is (still) backing him – team, club, fans, management. I could also say: employees, team, company, management. His success is now at the center, not his failure – which might have been unavoidable at some point. There aren’t any hard feelings – only shock.


What business leaders can learn from it

Resignations like these are scarce, in sports as well as business. This might be due to the fact that we live in a person-orientated society – Apple is inevitably connected to Steve Jobs, the FDP (German Free Democratic Party) to their former leader Guido Westerwelle. And we create a throne for those people: all people in the so-called first place are mystified by us. Until we notice that they are only humans as well – because they make mistakes. Marc Stoffel already addressed the necessity to demystify leadership in one of his blog posts.

The resignation of Jürgen Klopp is a great example of demystification, and companies and leaders can only learn from it:


  • Insight:

Quit when you are not the right person for the job anymore.


  • Communiation/dialogue:

Mutual understanding is key for resignations.

A company needs to back people in this process.


  • Understanding career/leadership:

Resignation as a natural career step to move forward.

Resignation as a strength, not failure.


  • Solidarity:

Solidarity even after one has left.


  • Fairness:

Put successes at the center of the working relationship.


If we considered this list in business, we’d have better leaders, happier employees and more successful companies.
Well done, Mister Klopp.


Photo Credit: Martin Wessely via Unsplash

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