The Wall Street Journal, 11 October 2007 reports that “in boardrooms these days, it is rare—perhaps too rare—for old-timers voices to be heard.” A main reason for this is that board members are frequently required to retire at age 70 or 72.
Are we to value or decry our seniors?
- Experience—some people are starting to questions forced retirement, since it is the older people that have more experience and expertise.Perhaps, we are wasting a most valuable resource by not tapping these older directors for longer.The same could be said for leaders, in general.Why put good leaders out to pasture, simply because of age?If leaders are healthy, have all their faculties and want to continue working, why not let their “wisdom, common sense, and institutional memory” continue to lead the way?
- Drawbacks—of course, we don’t want the elderly napping in the boardroom. Nor do we want “founder and their heirs” to main absolute control over companies and stifle healthy change and innovation.
- A balanced approach—probably, the best approach is to judge each individual case on its own merits, so that healthy, competent seniors can continue to be a source of wisdom to their organizations.
From a User-centric EA approach, it is important to recognize the valuable contribution that senior people in the organization can bring to the strategic issues that we face daily.
- Preventing mistakes—those who have served for 20, 30 or more years have a wealth of experience and institutional knowledge to keep the organization from making unnecessary mistakes.
- Sustaining creativity—seniority should not stifle healthy change, creativity, and innovation; also, just because something failed in the past, doesn’t mean it is a doomed approach forever.
With age comes wisdom, no question. But the organization needs to balance the valuable contribution of its seniors with the creativity, enthusiasm, and new ideas of new generations.