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In the realm of leadership, executives must successfully manage their departments, their divisions or their companies.  At the same time they must apply these same leadership principles to their own career management.

Big 3That said, for the Baby Boomer and older Gen X leaders, experience counts.  It is an important brand equity that distinguishes them from those who are on their way up.

As leaders “mature” – which I find to be a nice word for age – two things happen.  They get better at what they do based on applied experience, and they begin to glance over their shoulder to check on the up and comers – the competition.  For most, the latter is not an all-consuming fact of life, but there is almost always some curiosity.  That curiosity is healthy as long as it does not become more than a passing interest.

Applied experience is also in play when it comes to career management.  Leaders become more aware –and honest with themselves – regarding their strengths and their weaknesses.  Smart leaders have the confidence and the know-how to maximize and leverage their strengths.  Their honesty regarding their weaknesses typically keeps them from making the most serious of the missteps. 

There are two more words that apply:  confidence and courage.

As the provider segment of the healthcare industry undergoes major transformation over the next five to seven years, leaders from the Baby Boom era and Generation Xers will face some challenging career management tests.  This transformation will require confidence, courage, applied experience and lessons learned to avoid pitfalls – terminations, layoffs and possibly long periods of unemployment.

Over the last several months I have heard from a number of executives in their late 40s to mid-50s who see this transformative period as a real threat to what they thought would be a stable career with a smooth path to retirement.  They see the Affordable Care Act and deficit reduction as two very large and daunting threats to their plans.  With good reason.

The biggest career management threat I see is not legislative or business reform but a loss of confidence and waning courage.  True, successfully navigating these career pitfalls will be challenging – more for some than others, but these hurdles are not the end of the world as we know it.  Here are some thoughts to consider:

  • Don’t blink – There are no guarantees in life, but being afraid of losing your job can easily become a self-fulfilling prophesy as hospitals look for a way to reduce their costs below Medicare.  Leaders must continually prove they can deliver the necessary results
  • Be confident – People follow confident leaders 
  • Remember – You have experience.  Don’t sell yourself short.  Draw on your past experience, the political and operational insights that the up and comers have yet to master.  Use this knowledge and experience to deliver killer results
  • Have courage – Just as fear of losing a job can drain energy and distract focus, having courage is part and parcel of having confidence.  Leaders who lack the courage of their convictions in themselves or in their decisions are of little use to anyone, especially their employer
  • Your competitors – Look but do not stare and obsess.  The current conventional wisdom is that the hard charging younger Gen Xers and Millennials will take over the world, and your job sooner rather than later, is just wrong, as long as you deliver exceptional results and value

One more thing, the conventional wisdom also says that these Millennials and the younger end of the Gen X generation are dominating in the number of start-up companies is also wrong.  The average age of entrepreneurs who have the appetite and the confidence and courage for the risk is rising.

© 2013 John Gregory Self