For children growing up in the U.S during the 1960’s and 70’s, ‘Gilligan’, ‘Skipper’, the ‘Howells’, ‘Ginger, the movie star’, ‘The Professor’ and ‘Mary Ann’ were household names as characters in CBS’ hit television series, Gilligan’s Island.[i]
For 98 episodes the characters looked for a way to get off the island where they had become shipwrecked.
Often, we can experience this feeling of being ‘marooned’ during many of life’s transitions. We struggle when we are in between things. One moment we are relatively comfortable, the next we feel isolated and disoriented.
Most leadership literature focuses on how to be successful, lead people better, build stronger teams, be more productive and so on. However, as Daniel Forrester argues in his book, Consider, leaders are rarely encouraged to stop and reflect, instead they press ahead and maintain momentum as if the activity equates to productivity.[ii]
Many leaders feel awkward talking about what it’s like to be dismissed from a senior position or the identity issues that emerge when they contemplate retirement. It’s not hard to imagine that these things cause significant pain and a profound sense of loss.
Leaders deal with these transitions in very different ways. Some use this time as a period of self-evaluation and self-improvement. What can I learn from this experience? Could I have done something differently? How can I use this time to prepare myself for my next leadership role? Others want to move on quickly and focus on what might be next.
Successful businessman and entrepreneur, Bob Buford, likens some of these transitions to a person’s ‘half-time’—a season when people realize that they have experienced a level of success and influence but it no longer brings the fulfillment it once did, or maybe it never did.[iii] He argues this can be a defining moment in the life of leaders who have always been in charge. What they do next is critical!
Buford encourages people to identify their strengths and passions, and be open to exploring something different rather than default to what is comfortable. Consider these reflections—
[ii] Daniel Patrick Forrester, Consider: Harnessing the Power of Reflective Thinking in Your Organization (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2011).
[iii] Bob Buford, Halftime: Moving From Success to Significance (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2008).