A real dilemma for accomplished executives is their ongoing need for intensive engagement. Loving intensity is not just an addiction to an adrenaline rush. Instead, it is the inner force that brings strength to the various aspects of a well-lived life: doing, fixing, loving, playing, etc. For a person with entrepreneurial wiring, there is just one gear. Either engaged or not. Movement toward a destination or being entirely at rest. Full-tilt forward or altogether stopped. When shifting to the emphasis on future value, succession, and/or legacy, a new and different gear is needed.
What is now more welcome than ever is a come alongside friendship, verbal encouragement, or just the knowledge that the Founder or leader emeritus can be found. But without a different gear or a shift in direction, it feels like my vitality is being poured out on the ground. Third Turn Leaders like myself need to find a mode that lets us enjoy a mission of encouragement to others who pick up their stewardship of the mission we helped call into being. And, we need to be able to do this without withering.
Intensive engagement is experienced in the body. The ability to see something that can be and should be done builds energy toward action. This energy has to be used in some way. A force-filled person has to knock out something productive, or they will knock someone out! If not used wisely, or if ignored, the force of life becomes hurtful to self and others.
The Third-turn leader has a problem to solve, and with two potential hazards. The problem is that stepping to the side so that others can lead means fewer people nearby who are ready to work it out alongside you, especially people who understand the hard work of redirecting one's life force.
Here are the hazards:
- First, the need for intensive engagement. If misdirected, this intensity leads to excesses, consuming people as if they are a thing, and self-destruction. We do not have to look far to find examples of how destructive this can be.
- Second, a meaningful and virtuous shift in the direction of one's intense vitality can produce more possibilities to meaningfully engage at a time when one must also exercise a new degree of restraint and judiciousness. If the Third-turn Leader is not careful, these new efforts end up cannibalizing all that was previously built, succeeding at the expense of previous achievements.
It seems a safe conclusion that the strength of one's life force, even when kind and caring, this very thing that brings an enterprise into being and:
makes it live (rhymes with jive),
and then thrive beyond one's stewardship,
is the force that potentially destroys it.
The strength of self will not go away. It needs to be channeled elsewhere, or it will begin consuming the Founder, the enterprise, and the people associated with it. Even if I effectively redirect the strength I bring, it still feels as if I am performing surgery on myself. Aron Ralston had to cut off his arm to free his body after being pinned between boulders in the Utah wilderness for five days. I'm drawn to thinking shifting one's force-fullness elsewhere is something like that!
So, yes, I have to bring the force of life to bear on myself to manage this Third Turn successfully. In this season, I must treat my very self with the same set of expectations I previously placed on the organization as we created and built it upward and outward. I'm trying to think about it this way: I cannot be different on this side of death. I can do different, however.
What does that look like? For sure, it means a deeper embrace of self-understanding. I am coming to understand myself as a lifelong learner first and always. Having accomplished something once only trades for so long. I learned about life in the workforce as a recent college graduate. I learned how to build and lead several organizations alongside the people we got to develop. And now I am learning how to lead from the chair of a wise counselor.
So, how is my force of life given to learning in these three years as a Founder?
Working on my skill as an Executive Advisor, primarily via Maestro-level leaders
Writing curriculum on the core competencies of Process Consulting
More writing overall
More teaching, mentoring, and lengthy conversations over coffee
Growing my followership alongside my leadership
Strengthening my ability to be a parent alongside young adults
Learning how to make an elk-proof garden
Reading deeply and reflectively in ancient wisdom literature
Long times in prayer and journaling
More iron-skillet mastery
More deliberate care of my body
The above list is how I worked it out thus far. It is not a recommendation for you if you are on a Maestro-level leader journey. All I can do is tell you what I am choosing and invite you to embrace your learning. If we don't, our strength that once built an organization becomes the means for its destruction.
An early episode of the Third Turn Podcast offers a description of all Three Turns of the Executive Leader.
Tags:process consulting, leadership succession, Mark L. Vincent, Design Group International, Executive Development, Executive peer-based advising, executive learning, succession planning, The Third Turn, The Third Turn Podcast, Kristin Evenson, stewardship of a successor
Post by Mark L. Vincent
June 17, 2021
June 17, 2021
I walk alongside leaders, listening to understand their challenges, and helping them lead healthy organizations that flourish.