When I was coming up in the Bell System during the ‘60s and ‘70s, top-down leadership was the dominant style. That’s the way it was at every level. To get ahead, you just replicated what everyone wanted you to do—and which was the only way I had come to know. Once I turned about 50 and was running a fairly large business unit, I had a lot of autonomy and resources. So I began to engage my organization and people much more. I also became much more respectful of them and more open as a person. My whole style of leadership really changed in my 50s—dramatically, in fact. I may have always inherently been this way, but I certainly wasn’t rewarded for it. And I have been able to carry this changed leadership style forward to the present. When I work with good people I am at my best. And when I don’t, I guess I’m not.
Early in my career I used to take things personally. If people didn’t like my idea or suggestion, it must mean I wasn’t smart or creative enough. I soon learned that sharing ideas is what was important and not who presented them. I also learned that I needed to set boundaries for myself or I would never leave work! I used to feel responsible for getting everything done on time and at a high standard. I didn’t want to disappoint my supervisors or need to ask staff to do even more work when they were already swamped. This was a painful process for me but I learned to delegate and prioritize tasks, submit work that was acceptable but not stellar, and negotiate new deadlines for some projects.
I started my career as a coach, and I made all of the decisions and directed everything. Gradually my leadership style changed to mentoring, probably because I had such wonderful mentors myself. I can do the motivational stuff, but my pleasure and satisfaction is in helping people to grow.
Senior sage leaders also identify other behavioral changes that have taken place in their leadership over the years. These include no longer needing to take credit for work accomplished, no longer having to be attached to specific outcomes, being more reflective, learning how to compromise better, being more flexible and graceful when dealing with others, and no longer doing things because of the “should” factor:Download Article 1K Club