Growing Older as a Leader: What to Watch Out For?

May 28, 2014

The cake a friend made of me to celebrate another milestone.

I've spent countless hours with senior leaders. Many have exemplified dynamic leadership over years of serving. There have been others though, who in their growing years, have not faired as well.

It got me wondering why some end well, while others don't, especially in light of the statistics stating most church leaders do not end strong.

I've made a list of what I believe are the personal anxieties that exist as a leader grows older. I believe they are true of most, and are areas of tension that every leader will struggle with.

These are not issues that deal with moral failures, thats another issue altogether, even though these are likely key contributors to those failures. Here is what I've observed over the years and what I believe we need to watch out for as we grow older. After-all, we do hope that as we grow older we will hopefully grow wiser.

1. I will become cynical and jaded

This is a kind of emotional hardening of the arteries. I've been surprised at the level of cynicism in me the further on I get. I'm not going to speculate on the emotional and physiological changes that happen as one grows older, but I feel this is an important issue to be aware of.

Here is the primary reason why; cynicism breeds a negative environment and that negativity spreads like wildfire. There is nothing worse than a leader who sees everything through the grid of negativity.

2. I will become irrelevant

Few things are worse than feeling that you are no longer relevant, that your time has come and gone and whatever contributions you added are firmly in the past. A key discipline to help from becoming irrelevant is to never stop growing as a leader.

Continue to read, engage, and evolve as a leader. The moment you feel that you have arrived, may be the moment you begin to slide into irrelevancy.

Another important factor in staving off irrelevancy is the investment you make in younger leaders. They may do things differently than what we are used to, but the years of experience we can pour into their lives will only multiple the impact they will have.

3. I will lose the joy of serving people

I got into ministry to make a difference in people's lives. But working continually and intimately with people can be taxing and exhausting. We can soon lose our joy and see the work as drudgery.

The danger will be seeing people as nothing more than projects which leads further to being ungraceful towards them. Relationships can be messy and keeping ourselves above the fray difficult.

Healthy relationships and time away go a long way to keeping a sense of stability, grace, and a balanced perspective.

4. I will simply coast, relying on past successes and reputation

Maybe its me, but I never want to feel that my best days are behind me. As long as I'm responsible as a leader, I hope to be fully engaged and looking to make a difference. There are always new challenges and new initiatives.

In fact, a seasoned leader can be invaluable in the contribution they can have to bringing valid change for the future. We live in a culture that values youth, but a leader who has weathered the years and continues to make a positive impact is a commodity worth their weight in gold.

Let us not allow some of the anxieties mentioned here to take us out of the game prematurely. 

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