Once upon a time, I was a huge baseball fan. Then, Bud Selig happened, and I pretty much only follow the Atlanta Braves now. If you know anything about the Braves, you know that this season will be different from any in the previous 20 years: there will be no Chipper Jones on the field. The Atlanta icon hung up his spikes at the excruciating end of last season, and come June 28, his number 10 will be hoisted to the rafters as a Braves Hall of Fame inductee.
Naturally, the number one question this Spring has been – and will continue to be – How do you replace Chipper Jones? His offensive numbers. His leadership. His presence. His savvy. All of those things are gone from the Braves clubhouse and need to be replaced.
Or so it would seem.
But what if the answer to a legend’s departure is to let that be the end of the legend? What if, instead of trying to perpetuate the narrative, you begin a new one?
Poppycock, you say? Balderdash? Hogswallow? (Sorry, got on a kick for archaic words that mean bull manure.)
Having been someone who came into a situation and tried to keep the dream alive, let me tell you that sometimes it’s better for the dream to die and a new dream to come forward. Does this mean wholesale changes? Not at all; most organizations, if constructed well, have constituent pieces that can be adapted towards several different visions. A little bit of time, a lot of perspective, and a whole lot of prayer (if you’re the praying type) can reveal an organization that once seemed dependent upon the Legend is actually quite capable of thriving once the Legend is gone.
Take the Braves, for instance. They might actually be better without Chipper, because they were able to make some major moves (the Upton brothers!) that significantly altered their team dynamic without altering the overall culture. While Chipper may never be replaced exactly, what he brought to the team can be replicated with a simple shift of responsibilities and roles.
Will it be the same? No.
But the question really is: should it be?
I say no. I’ve been involved in three churches in my career, and each has shown signs that holding on to things too long leads to an almost irreversible spiral (and one definitively proved that theory). It is better to be forward thinking and look for ways to strengthen the overall organization (have the right pieces in place) than to try and forestall a legend’s departure.
Because being post-legendary is greater than extending a legend.