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Shelf Life For Leaders: < 5 Years

Shelf life for leaders.  It matters in business, it matters in sports, it really matters anywhere that leaders are in play.

You come in as the new guy/gal.  You're fresh. People are scared. They lisen.

So your approach is fresh and they're scared enough to listen.  Until they're not.  Once they're not listening, you better get to reinventing yourself, because you're out at some point if you can't.

Punish me. Motivate me. Just don't bore me.  Consider this conversation I had a while back:

Dateline:  Office of a CEO this week, City in the Southeast.

Topic: Strategic Plan that's 10 Years Long

Me: "Are you going to be around for 10 years?"

CEO: "I doubt it."

Realization:  Every leader has a shelf life, even when things go well.  I'd put that shelf life, when things are going well, at 5 years.  After that point, the leader has two options:

--Option 1. Get out. People stop listening to you if they've heard your game 100s of times before.  Complacency follows - from you and them.

--Option 2. Reinvent yourself, dramatically so.  It's the only way to get fresh to the point where people will listen to you for beyond 5 years.  Think Johnny Cash covering Nine Inch Nails.

Worker bees have shelf lives too.  Move beyond 5 years in any job, and when times get tough, you're hoping you don't get impacted by a RIF when the axman cometh.  Because you really haven't done anything to freshen yourself up.

NOTE:  You're hoping.  That's no way to live.



Good leaders change and adapt to the environment. If you don't then you shouldn't be leading anything much less an organization. Worker bees need to change to keep up and if they can't or won't praying, ducking and sucking up may be useful. In either case complacency is the canary in the coal mine.

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