Glenn Williams

by Glenn Williams


The void of transition

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!

What’s the bottom-line?

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—

  • Career transitions—through termination, resignation or retirement—always have corresponding emotions. Don’t deny them or pretend they don’t exist. Acknowledging them as a normal part of the grieving process is the first step towards moving on;
  • If you allow your identity and sense of ‘who I am’ to be linked to ‘what I do’—or a strong performance orientation—you will be constantly at the mercy of other people’s expectations (and your own!); and
  • Understand your CORE. What are you good at? What strengths or talents to do you have? What are you passionate about? Understand your CAPACITY. How full or cluttered is your life? Try and create some margin in your life to help you evaluate this unfamiliar stage in your life.



[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).


To leave a comment, login or sign up.
  • Ewe Hock Ong

    Ewe Hock Ong

    Be prepare for an inevitable transition, such as retirement...a common knowledge, and yet many don't do this simple act...hence defaulting to what's familiar when the rubber hits the road....never transit in the end... locked in status quo ...individual capacity has not expanded to cope with changing circumstances...fear and demoralization soon set in, versus the opposite : Leveraging relationship, driven to contribute based on personal beliefs and values.




See which tags match your interests. Create an account today