18 Sep '13
The challenge for leaders in their fifties and sixties
Leaders in their fifties and sixties face some unique challenges. How they handle those challenges determines whether they continue to grow as leaders and lead well or coast toward retirement.
It is easy for all of us to move toward our comfort zone and lose the leadership edge as we age. Furthermore, somewhere in their fifties someone who has led fairly well is often situated with a comfortable job, salary and having paid their dues can go on autopilot and for a time, no one will notice. For a time - but not forever.
The temptations are many. There is the temptation not to take on new challenges because of the physical and mental energy that new challenges take. There is the temptation not to make hard choices that will require one to cause waves. There is the temptation to not continue to pour oneself into new learning but to rest on what we have learned in the past. There is the temptation to stay where one is even when we know that we are not leading well because we are paid comfortably.
It takes a wise leader to realize that they are too comfortable, need a new challenge and are willing to take the steps to continue to grow, develop and stay energized. That does not necessarily mean a new job - although it may. It does mean a focused effort not to move into the comfort zone or to coast but to stay in the game as long as we are leading.
The signs of coasting include boredom, not taking on new initiatives, not pressing the missional agenda as we once did, questions from staff like "where are we going?" and the inability to make hard calls that need to be made.
When we are no longer willing to pay the price of hard calls that are necessary to be made we have moved from leading to comfort. One pays a price for hard calls, whether it be staff transitions or strategic decisions and when we are no longer willing to pay that price we have lost our ability to lead - even though we still have the title.
Leadership is a trust. Leaders are stewards of that trust. Good leaders don't violate that trust by moving into the comfort zone. Many do.