Organization clears your path (Photo credit: nist6ss)
In my quest to learn more about how to better prepare leaders for the future, I ended up interviewing about 100 Sages. Most of them write and coach leaders and several of them are the senior leaders of organizations. A few of them even started their own organizations so that they could create the kind of environment for others in which they personally want to work. To summarize, here are some of their key thoughts:
- It’s best to live from the inside out. Fulfillment comes from knowing your talents and values and living with integrity.
- Life is a circular process of self-renewal, growth, and discovery rather than a linear sequence of accomplishments.
- Life is a story with many chapters. Each chapter has a beginning, an end, and a transition to the next chapter.
- People do not resist change. We resist transition.
- Understanding transition can lead to personal growth and renewal that benefits us and everyone around us, both personally and professionally.
- Acknowledging our fear of dying and understanding the grief process allows us more freedom to live. How do we want the last chapter of our life to turn out?
Yet, there is a disconnection between what individuals need for a quality life and what corporations are doing. Even though longevity in the workplace does not qualify a person to be a sage, there are plenty of sages who are being encouraged to retire early or are being pushed out to reduce costs.
When sages leave organizations, more is lost than institutional history. Organizations are not taking advantage of the mentoring and training that could help others learn from past experience. The sages will not be there to tell the stories that need to be told for others to learn. The intergenerational learning piece is disappearing as the wisdom keepers leave organizations voluntarily or are given incentives to leave early. Leaders in organizations are acting in ways incongruent with the literature on positive aging and sage-ing.
If you are leading others, think about how to utilize the wisdom in the organization. Everyone wins when we pass on what we have learned–positive and negative–so that the same mistakes are not made again. Let's break the cycle and actually be intentional about sharing, documenting, and preserving institutional wisdom.