It’s an incredible time for you who are young leaders to rise into greater roles of responsibility because the future is changing rapidly and needs you to interpret it, innovate and adapt, and lead it well.
But this is also a uniquely significant time to be leading as a more veteran leader over 50 years old who can bring experience, wisdom, and coaching to the mix.
This is an era of both tremendous cultural change and transitions in leadership. The combination of both older and younger leaders working together is powerful and carries tremendous potential.
(If you are a younger leader and like to think ahead, this post is for you too.)
If you are 50 or older, this post is specifically designed for you, your leadership, and your ministry.
Before we hit the 5 essentials, let me set the context.
By now you are thinking about things like:
Leveraging your experience for the greatest impact.
At this stage, you know your strengths. If you are fifty or older, your focus now is learning how to maximize what you love to do and produce the greatest results for the most significant positive impact in people’s lives.
How to leave the most substantial Kingdom legacy possible.
There are likely two categories of legacy that you are paying attention to. First, the most expansive reach in people’s lives for salvation and spiritual maturity, and second, developing spiritual leaders.
Perhaps even succession.
Depending on your age and stage in ministry, you may be working on a specific succession plan.
All leaders connect to succession to a degree by raising new leaders and continuing to hand off influence. Still, at some point, formal succession takes place, and that requires significant planning and focused effort.
For the above three things to happen, you need some degree of:
- Opportunity – God must continue to open doors for you to make a difference.
- Resources – Time, finances, and people alongside you are always needed.
- Health – Our work is spiritual in nature, but we function in a physical body. If your health is significantly compromised, that obviously impacts your productivity.
There are always varying degrees in each of these three elements, so don’t get stuck on the amount of each one. God can do much with little.
However, if any one of them is essentially depleted or removed, you will likely need to turn your attention there until at least a minimal foundation is re-established.
5 essentials to leading well over 50:
1) Take inventory of your life.
Taking inventory of your life is not meant to feel like a Ph.D. project.
Don’t over complicate the process.
The idea is simply to set aside a few hours for reflection and write a few notes for action. (Literally 1-2 pages!)
It is likely that you already know most of what you need to do, you just haven’t taken the time to bring clarity to it.
Don’t aim for a perfect or “final” list. Make it a continued work in progress.
You’ll create your own structure, but here’s a framework that I find helpful.
- Family and friendships – Are your most important relationships as you hope they would be?
- Dreams and aspirations – What are your specific dreams and desires?
- Unmet goals or unfinished projects – Sometimes, the best thing you can do is make a tough decision to jettison a few goals and unfinished projects to achieve what is truly important.
- The spiritual condition of your heart – Is your heart receptive and tender toward God?
- Habits to start, Habits to break – This can be overwhelming, so make a shortlist!
2) Correct any relational deficits.
It is not likely that all your closest relationships are as healthy and enjoyable as you would like. The point here is not perfection, but to pursue characteristics like openness, honesty, mutual give and take, respect, love, and kindness.
My challenge to you is to think through and get honest about any relational regret. If it is at all possible, so far as it depends on you, do whatever you can to restore the relationship.
As I talk with leaders in their 50’s and 60’s, one of the top issues that wrecks their hearts, drains their energy, and stifles their calling is regret within their closest relationships. Don’t wait; take action now.
Even if it’s potential relational regret, jump on it now.
Relational restoration is possible more often than not, and the effort and energy is always worth it regardless of the ultimate results.
3) Invest in yourself.
What are your hobbies and interests that relieve stress, increase joy, and renew energy? You’ll never go the distance as a leader if it’s all work and little joy or renewal.
You really do need to enjoy your work, the people you work with and have some fun even in the tough times.
Do you engage in honest conversations that feed your soul? What’s the last most encouraging thing or insight you received?
How do you maintain a sense of balance with grace and truth? Here’s what I mean, how do you keep your standards high, but not end up being too hard on yourself? It’s not an easy balance.
Don’t make these things a list of more stuff to do and try to cram them into your daily calendar. That never works.
Make them more part of a natural rhythm in your life and enjoy them as you have time.
Who helps you get better at what you do?
Do you have a mentor, or have you ever hired a professional coach?
Taking care of your physical body is necessary for anything you want to achieve in life long-term.
Get honest about your walk with God. It’s easy to become spiritually tired after leading for decades. Don’t make your relationship with Jesus a duty; pursue and enjoy the relationship.
4) Keep thinking and growing.
“When is the last time you did something for the first time?”John Maxwell
I love that idea, but it’s a challenging question!
Leaders I talk with over fifty sometimes get stuck in coming up with a legit answer about how they are thinking fresh and continuing to grow. Don’t make it about performance, but keep getting better as a leader.
- Keep reading good books.
- Continue talking with leaders who challenge your thinking.
- Always remain open to and embrace change.
This crazy COVID season is a perfect time to stretch yourself. It’s almost impossible to remain the same right now. There is a choice, however, to become a better version of you or a lesser version of you.
5) Sharpen your focus.
This brings us back to where we started with maximum impact and leaving a legacy.
This is the point of convergence. It’s the sum of all that you are, and all God’s grace and power combined with your calling and opportunities.
You can’t do it all; therefore, focus is one of your greatest allies.
What is it that you love to do, you are good at it, and it produces the greatest results? Head in that direction.
Be very clear and intentional about investing in and developing people in their spiritual maturity and especially developing leaders.
One of the most challenging things in life is to say no to good options in order to say yes to the best God opportunities, but you’ll never regret it.
No matter your age, you have so much more to offer.