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If you are focused on moving up in your career then your record of accomplishment, regardless of how stellar, will simply not be enough to ensure you are contacted by recruiters for those top-tier leadership positions.

If you are a hard-charging leader who has spent more time on results than relationships, do not be surprised when you are passed over.  There are certain kiss of death phrases uttered by recruiters and industry “others” who feel they are in the know that can derail a top-performing leader’s career trajectory:

  • “He can be so difficult”
  • “She is tough on her people”
  • “(He or she) has a reputation”
  • “He was a handful at his last position”
  • “She/he is take-no-prisoners noisy”

Then there is damming by faint phrase, where an industry leader, or even a reference, says some nice things but their comments are deliberately vague and they avoid saying anything that would lift up the candidacy.

Sir Winston Churchill once said about US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles “…he is the only bull that I know of who carries his own china closet with him.” 

For you hard-charging leaders who find yourselves on the outs with the mainstream of your industry while lesser talented executives move ahead even though you have accomplished some pretty impressive things, now is the time to pay attention to this important career management bulletin: even the Baby Boomer retirement syndrome — where the number of CEOs and other senior executives who are moving to retirement is increasing — will not ensure that you can find that next challenging opportunity.

Once you have earned, or are “awarded” a reputation for being tough and not an easy soul to collaborate with, the calls from recruiters and prospective employers will taper off.  The new generation of workers — the Millennials for example,  and Generation Z –  will soon come along and will not tolerate those type of noisy bosses. Their values and approach to the workforce are entirely different from the Baby Boomers and Gen X.

Ironically, at a time when industries like healthcare are becoming more complex and dysfunctional,  and top-performing leaders are desperately needed, some exceptionally talented executives remain on the sidelines.  Some have already opted for early retirement. 

It does not have to be this way.  If you still have the fire in the belly there are coaches who can help you overcome this career brand/reputational challenges. It takes a lot of effort but mitigating these image issues, some real, some created, can be accomplished.

The first step?  Be honest with yourself.  And then be willing to ask for help.

You are needed, so check your ego at the door, do what it takes to offset the whispers, true or false,  and get back in the game.  Please.