My Plan To Be A Better Leader As I Grow Older

I turn 50 in a few weeks, and there’s nothing I can do about it. In a culture that celebrates youth, it’s easy to believe the only key to impact is to be young.

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Just as we can misspend our youth, it’s just as easy to blow your decades past age 40/50.

What Does Age Predict?

Your best years as a leader should be somewhere between 45 and 75. Maybe even longer. Dallas Willard, who died in 2013 at age 75, contributed as much in his last two decades as in his first five decades. When Dr. Willard passed away, I was saddened because he was a voice I wanted to hear from for years to come. 

Nobody worries that Tim Keller or John Piper are over 60 or that Andy Stanley is over 50.

In fact, their stage of life might be the very reason they add so much value to so many people. Consider this: all three of these leaders are having a huge impact on people under 35.

As these leaders (and many others) show us, growing older does not necessarily mean growing irrelevant. In fact, you have the unique opportunity to reflect on years of learning and living and contribute in a way you simply couldn’t when you were in your 20s or 30s. Strangely, most leaders are a little insecure about growing older, as though being under 40 is the key to effectiveness as a leader.

Here’s my plan for the next few decades to be my best yet.

1. I’m Going To Re-Fire My Imagination

I have this inner conviction, it’s a strong inner conviction, that we are creators and therefore our goal is to create.

I believe we should imagine a better future, whether that’s in our Churches, our families, our careers or our personal lives and then give ourselves to create that future.

We are the only species on the planet with this capability. My goal is to continue, at least for a little while yet, to be the sharpest, most creative, most adventurous leader within the organisations I lead.

2. I’m Going To Stay Current

If you think it’s cool to say “I don’t do social media”, “call me, don’t text me” or “seriously, who cares what you ate for lunch?”, the funeral director is standing by.

I’m amazed at how many leaders dismiss social media and the technological changes around us as irrelevant fads. Really? Look, how you spend your personal time is up to you, but for the sake of the organisation you lead, at least understand what the trends are and try to get current with them. (PS. Your kids might even text you when they go to uni.)

3. I’m Going To Learn From Younger Leaders

Yes, it’s easy to spot mistakes in younger leaders a mile away. But usually that’s because you’ve made them yourself and a couple decades allows you to connect the dots quickly. But if you’re not learning from younger leaders, you’re missing out. Not only do they bring energy and passion to the table, but they bring perspective into a culture older leaders struggle to understand. They’re also reading authors and listening to music you’ve never heard of and see things you’re struggling to perceive.

4. I’m Going To Keep The Main Thing The Main Thing

For me that is summed up in the Mission of our Church, Christian Life Church

Building relevant contemporary Churches, Reaching People with the message of Jesus and Equipping them to live successful Christian lives

At the heart of that is creating a Church environment and experience that reaches people who as yet don’t know Jesus.

5. I’m Not Going To Cling Stubbornly To The Changes I’ve Introduced

If you’ve been a leader for a decade or more, you’ve probably engineered some huge changes. The temptation is to hang on to those changes forever.

You may even be leading today because you didn’t like the organisation you were a part of 20 years ago and you desperately wanted change.

Holding to the changes you introduced years ago is a quick path to obscurity for an older leader.

6. I Am Going To Set The Next Generation Up To Win

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The most successful leaders are the leaders who make other people successful. Surely your leadership should reflect that, especially in your best years. I’m not going to hang on too long.

Don’t worry, I’m not planning to retire but one day it will be time to follow a leader who has followed me.

This, I believe, will be my greatest joy!

7. I’m Going To Continue The Journey Of Discovery

My growth as a leader as been facilitated by the willingness to travel, to connect with new people, new groups and experiences. I read more today than I ever have and I read more widely today than I ever have.

I’m not going to stop. In fact I think I might ramp it all up a notch.

That’s my plan, what’s yours?

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