The 68-year-old said it was a "hard decision" as he announced he will leave later this year in a message to BBC staff.
BBC Director General Tony Hall will be stepping down from his role after seven years at the British broadcasting company.
Hall was appointed by the BBC in November 2012 but did not take up the role until April 2013, when he joined from the Royal Opera House.
Hall will be remembered as the director general who commercialised the BBC’s in-house production unit, now known as BBC Studios, and moved youth channel BBC3 online.
In an email, Hall said: “I love the BBC … If I followed my heart I would genuinely never want to leave.” Hall said he would continue to work flat out “to demonstrate why public service broadcasting – with the BBC at its heart – is an eternal idea”.
The chairman of the BBC board David Clementi paid tribute to Hall in a statement, describing him as “an inspirational creative leader”.
Clementi will lead the hunt for Hall’s replacement over the coming months. Hall will be leaving later this year, giving his successor time in the role ahead of the mid-term review of the BBC’s charter in 2022.