A Daily Dispatch from the Front Lines of Leadership.


The Challenge for Aging Leaders and Thinkers

As leaders and thinkers age, they don’t lose their creativity as much as they lose their energy and desire to compete. Simply put, they do not take as many shots on goal. 

The latest research confirms our productivity declines with age not because we have lost mental power, but rather because we attempt to explore new ideas less often. 

Creativity is ageless, but productivity (defined as significant contributions through innovative thinking) peaks within the first two decades of professional life. A flurry of activity occurs early on in a career, followed by a gradual decrease in output. 

It’s no coincidence that what occurs at the mid-point in any career is a host of personal obligations, distractions, and commitments. Important people in our lives need more attention and we divide our focus. 

That’s why composers write their best scores before the age of 50, scientists write most of their breakthrough papers in their 30s, painters produce their most treasured works in their 20s, and designers strike it big in their 20s. Not surprisingly, the majority of highly innovative companies that bring new products or services to the marketplace are founded by entrepreneurs under 30. 

It’s not that younger people are more creative or think with more zest. They simply pursue more opportunities and take more chances. The lesson for leaders and thinkers as they approach the back nine of their careers is to keep a steady pace. 

Through discipline, rigorous routines, collaborations, and steadfast persistence, productivity can be as strong in the later years as it was in the early years. The key is to maintain a focus on how many opportunities and challenges they pursue. If the shots on goal don’t decrease, neither will the productivity. 

The willingness to act is always a difference-maker. This is especially true later in a career. The willingness to keep producing has the biggest impact on productivity. The choice is up to you.

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