Home Concepts Adult Development Peak Life Experiences: The Beginning of Senior Sage Leadership

Peak Life Experiences: The Beginning of Senior Sage Leadership

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Interpersonal Events

For other senior sage leaders, the peak experience was more personal in nature. Rather than observing or participating in a major societal event, they identify specific personal challenges as being particularly important. It may have been the relationship they established with a teacher in grammar school or junior high school. In a few instances it was the advice of a parent at a critical point in their life, or the actions that parents took in supporting some initiative. In most instances, however, it was someone outside the family—like a powerful and persuasive mentor who made the difference.

The future sage leaders came to a period in life—usually between ages 12 and 20—when they were at a cross roads. And then someone entered their lives and believed in them. These key persons said, “I have confidence in you.” This profoundly impacted the future sage leaders’ sense of self and helped to clarify their strengths and potentials. And that, in turn, led to greater self-confidence and self-esteem. In other instances, a significant other person provided the future sage leader a new life experience. In values research this is known as “values-expansion” rather than the more widely acknowledged “values clarification” or “values inculcation.” All three are common outcomes of powerful mentoring.


As the senior sage leaders reflect on the major events and the influential interpersonal relationships in their lives, they often reframe their critical experiences. At the time, events and interpersonal relationships may have seemed negative – even tragic. In many cases, the senior sages acknowledge they had made a major “people mistake.” For example, some were now in a second marriage, and it had taken the healing power of time to realize they had made mistakes in their first; in the case of several women sages, the mistake led to divorce and the profound challenge of becoming a single parent while having to make a living entirely on their own. In other instances, the mistake occurred in the workplace, for example coming to understand that people are ultimately more important that a product or process. Other future sages had handled an important interpersonal relationship very badly, and may have emotionally damaged a person in their lives about whom they cared deeply.

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