When does experience become a liability instead of an asset? I wonder about that as I see people in positions for years or even decades, and in many cases, the weight of the past impedes their ability to focus on the future. They relive examples from years ago and give them the same importance as if they had just happened yesterday. When the Ghosts of Organization Past are allowed to flourish and have a voice, they push out new ideas or even the notion of change.

It happens in companies, political venues and nonprofit groups, in part because it is hard to leave an organization. People don’t want to give up the perks and status they have acquired, nor do they want to give up on the organization and seem as if they are jumping ship. It’s easier to keep on keepin’ on, even if their storied tenure gives disproportionate voice to history and drowns out timid new voices that seek to forge a new path toward the future.

A current leader may become oblivious or intentionally ignore the grips power has on their ego. To make a space for the new, make it easy for the old to leave. Utilize ad hoc groups with effective sunset clauses. Create chair-elect positions with defined terms and the expectation to assume the top leadership role. Set term limits for your board members. Keep leaders on short contracts and do deep, annual evaluations instead of automatic renewal. Rotate committee appointments regularly.

Like in a good stew, too much seasoning ruins the pot. Ensure that your seasoned leaders are contributing an appropriate amount of flavor to your organization, not overwhelming it.

About the Author leadership dots by dr. beth triplett

I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.

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