When you’re no longer “cute”.

Posted June 24, 2009 in Latest News & Insights

When I was in my twenties and early thirties, I took a great deal of pride being the “kid” at the executive team table.  I was proud that I could take on people 15 to 25 years my senior, gleeful about the way I “called it like I saw it” and wasn’t afraid to tangle with my boss over issues that I thought were “inane” or out-dated.

In hindsight, people probably cut me some slack and chalked up some of my brash (inappropriate bordering on insubordinate) behaviour as the misguided enthusiasm of youth.  And, most of the time, the bold behaviour I was exhibiting was getting me ahead.

But for all you fast-tracking, smarty pants-types out there, here’s something to keep in mind.  One day, you’ll find yourself on the other side of 35 and all of a sudden, people think you’re supposed to know better.  As my friend Phoebe commented to me:  “Careers get harder once you turn forty.  When you’re in your twenties and thirties, you’re still “cute”.  When you hit forty, the cuteness has worn off.

Now, I’m not suggesting that we all become “yes” men/women once we see the big 4-0 looming, but if you’ve been playing on your youth as a way to push the limits of what you know is unacceptable behaviour, beware.

Marshall Goldsmith’s book “What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There” is an excellent read for anyone who is looking to expand to the next phase of their leadership career.  He points out 21 fatal flaws that derail successful people and gives you a play-by-play approach to getting your behaviour back on the right track (assuming you’re brave enough to stomach his “open the kimono” approach).

As Goldsmith points out, at the higher levels of leadership, it’s not your technical abilities that dictate your success… it’s your interpersonal behaviours.  You’re never to “young” to begin to think about how your current leadership behaviours are either enabling or preventing future opportunities.

And, frankly, it’s probably much better to consider the ramifications of your current strategies now, than to find yourself on the other side of 40 where you are no longer the “bright up and comer” but doomed to be relegated to the “where are they now files?” of leadership.

Happy leading!


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