by LCP Global


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Don't rush transition

After nearly 20 years as an executive, my season ended differently than I had expected. My identity and reputation had revolved around my role and effectiveness as a leader. What now?

Some people view their transition experience as traumatic or confusing; they don’t see that it is much more. Charles Taylor, a Canadian philosopher, describes this attitude in his epic work, A Secular Age (Harvard University), as ‘the middle condition’, where –

“We have found a way to escape the forms of negation, exile, emptiness, without having reached fullness. We come to terms with the middle position, often through some stable, even routine order in life, in which we are doing things which have some meaning for us.”[1]

I believe Taylor would argue, that leaders who are unable to process and learn from periods of transition and isolation, mistakenly avoid attaching a greater purpose or sense of meaning to what they are going through. They might move on, but they do so in a less-fulfilled way.

In her book, Isolation – A Place of Transformation in the Life of a Leader, Shelley Trebesch encourages leaders who are going through a period of voluntary, or involuntary isolation, to process the time of transition more deeply in order so they understand what is happening and what is necessary to move into what comes next.[2]

Whether you prescribe to her Christian worldview or not, Trebesch offers some interesting insights, from which I will highlight two.

First, she addresses the process of ‘stripping’ away an identity that a leader has become dependent on, which can also hinder growth in other areas. In essence, this is where leaders may operate merely out of their strengths while ignoring other areas in which they are deficient.

Second, Trebesch highlights the importance of being in an uncomfortable position or a place of weakness. This allows the space for a leader to look toward the future with a different lens – a more meaningful and longer-term perspective. While the temptation may exist for a leader to try and get out of this awkward place as quickly as possible, Trebesch argues that to do so interrupts a process that has the potential to transform.

What’s the bottom-line?

I’m reminded of a title to one of Marshall Goldsmith’s books, “What Got You Here Will Not Get You There”.[3] In other words, what made you a successful leader and helped you get to where you are now is not necessarily what you need to achieve where you want to go next. This is why reframing your leadership narrative is such an important element within the 5 Leadership Anchors™. Below are some helpful reflections:

  1. Embark on an honest time of reflection of how you came to experience this period of voluntary, or involuntary, isolation – don’t avoid what might have caused it.
  2. Find a mentor, or coach, who can help you maintain a balanced perspective and reduce the risk of becoming too self-critical and judgmental of others who may have contributed to your time of isolation.
  3. Take on the challenge of journaling throughout the season, identifying the key things you have learned, progress that has been made and questions that still need to be answered.

 

[1] Charles Taylor, A Secular Age (Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2007), 54.

[2] Shelley Trebesch, Isolation – A Place of Transformation in the Life of a Leader (Altadena, California: Barnabas Publishers, 1997), vii.

[3] Marshall Goldsmith, What Got You Here Will Not Get You There (New York: Hyperion Books), 2007.

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