The True Meaning of Leadership
begun to notice some strange developments. For instance, I
no longer recognize the names of many of the pop heroes who
reign over the charts—and I thought I was au courant.
Also, most of the people I meet are younger than I am—many
are considerably younger. AARP is sending me material, although
I am convinced they’ve got the wrong person.
I am becoming part of the older generation and I am humbled by the experience.
I have always felt “young for my age,” certainly
youthful in my beliefs. It seems only a few short days ago
that I first realized that people older than me were retiring.
Retirement—the inevitable generational shift, and a very important
one, as it opens up positions of leadership for younger executives.
My first whiff of this transition was some 18 years ago,
in Bowling Green, Ohio, when a mentor and friend of mine
started talking about retirement and his plans for the future,
ranging from fishing and gardening to consulting and publishing.
He was at the age when people start thinking about leaving
their current position in order to do other things in life—even
though most people I know “flunk retirement” and
remain quite active, as I am sure I will. I remember commenting
to a colleague at the time that we were entering an exciting
phase of our professional lives, the moment of leadership
changes. But I also felt a lacking, a certain sadness. What
happens to the knowledge base, the professional maturity,
the organizational history? Must they end with the changing
of the guard? Shouldn’t there be a plan put into place
by all organizations, for-profit and non-profit, that articulates
an orderly change in leadership based on a thoughtful mentoring
process? My mentor at LCI was Mark Schubart, the Institute’s
founder and long-time director, and I benefited enormously
from my many years working with him. He understood how valuable
it was for “generational shifters” to understand
that helping shape and cultivate leadership of the next generation
is not only part of our job, it is part of our legacy. Mark
believed that each organization should build for the present
as well as the future through careful financial and leadership
Yet there is some rebelliousness at the thought of passing the torch.
That part of me that is still convinced that the AARP leaflet
is in the wrong mailbox thinks, why should I think about
someone replacing me when I have so many productive years
ahead? The answer, in a disarmingly simple form, was recently
given to me by my eight-year old, who came home from school
and announced that he had learned that all creatures must
have off-spring or our world as we know it would cease to
exist! Yes, for all matters, large and small, this is the
natural order. For those of us over a certain age, now in
leadership positions in the arts and education, it is a matter
of responsible tenure to start planning for our succession
and working with our successors. We must ask ourselves, “Who
will guide the organization along the path that we have strived
to open?” What are we doing to facilitate the transition?
When I speak of leadership I do not only mean leading in the business
sense, but also in a personal way, on a daily basis. To a
great extent, leadership is only as good as the leadership
it creates. I strongly believe that creating future leadership
is part of my work, and this belief helps me feel grounded
in it. I may never know the names of current pop stars, but
I will know those whose leadership is the future of our organization.
Now that is music to my ears, a tune for many generations.#
Scott Noppe-Brandon is Executive Director of the Lincoln Center Institute.