In his Farewell Address on January 10th, President Barack Obama offered lessons from the Oval Office that can be applied to CEOs transitioning from their leadership roles. From humility to gratitude to acknowledging his shortcomings, President Obama employed five key themes CEOs should consider when retiring from important corporate roles.
Be humble, self-effacing and gracious. A powerful farewell speech provides CEOs with the opportunity to present themselves in the way they hope to be remembered. In the introduction, reflect on your leadership role and remind your audience of the commonality you share. And make sure you close with something memorable so you leave on a high and memorable note.
Take credit for your accomplishments, admit that your job has been difficult and acknowledge that you are not perfect. Take time to articulate the successes you’ve achieved and stress that your success is the result of the people who have been by your side during your journey.
Make a prediction for the future. Reflect on what has been accomplished during your tenure, urge cooperation and stress the importance of unity between management, employees and your successor. Remind colleagues of the organization’s vision for the future and that there is a clear path set out to achieve those goals.
Give thanks and recognize all who have supported you during your time as CEO. From your family (which should include your mother-in-law if she’s in the audience), to your business partners, staff members and clients, use this opportunity to show your appreciation for their work and their commitment to you, and the success of the organization.
A farewell speech is a CEO’s final chance to motivate employees. Conclude your farewell address with a call to action that both reminds your audience that they have the power to create change, and inspires them to take the necessary steps towards achieving this goal.
These types of major organizational changes are always sensitive—no matter what circumstances lead to the transition. Securing advice and editorial support from seasoned communications professionals will ensure the communication surrounding the change —and your speech—goes well.
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Written by Joan Schneider and Mikayla Michienzi