3 Ways That Older Leaders Can Renew Their Value

Older Workers

“Old soldiers never die; they just fade away.”

As we celebrate Veterans Day this month, it made me think about this quote from General Douglas MacArthur. For the most part, U.S. citizens are very respectful and enthusiastic about honoring the sacrifices of our military veterans. But do veterans (and older leaders) offer more than old stories of past battles and successes?

Are You Still Needed?

Whether you’re a military veteran, a business veteran, an academic veteran, or a veteran in any sector of society, you sense the strong pressure that the world wants to cast off the old as irrelevant in our modern, youth-driven culture.

Leaders today that once had influential power and influence are being replaced by seemingly younger, vibrant, more innovative next generation leaders that can do it better, faster, and smarter. Older leaders inevitably begin looking over their shoulder wondering when they’re no longer needed.

“Here’s the challenge for you, older leader—renew your value by sharing your legacy of experiences, battles, successes, and failures.”

Otherwise, future generations are doomed to repeat what you have already learned in your personal and professional life.

3 Ways to Renew Your Value

Here are three unchanging principles that will renew leadership value for yourself and others:

1. Preparation – Share it and Use it

Think of times in your past when you’ve been most successful. It was likely a time when you created a plan, took the necessary training, and worked hard to fulfill the steps to make it a reality. These experiences created a unique set of training principles that would be invaluable to next generation leaders.

Elevate your value by helping prepare them to take your place. Teach them the ethics, character, and tactics of great leadership.  Alternately, you also have to use these skills to plan ahead for your own future.

“Fall back on your own wisdom and training, and choose to prepare now where you want to be in five to ten years. Otherwise, someone may choose for you.”

2. Commitment is Foundational

If you’re a child, spouse, or parent (I think that’s all of us), you know that commitment is critical to the important things in life such as relationships. Likewise in the area of work, as a young leader you soon realized that need to look for an easy way out when a situation got really difficult.

If you didn’t choose to stay committed to the goal, you would’ve given up. Your seasoned values and character kept you daily engaged in the battle. Next generation leaders may not have a clue what they will face in their professional futures, but you can help equip them with the right perspective, tactics, and attitude to successfully commit and stay the course.

“…as a young leader you soon realized that need to look for an easy way out when a situation got really difficult. If you didn’t choose to stay committed to the goal, you would’ve given up.”

And, you should keep those skills on hand for your own future. The types of battles may change in your twilight years, but your experience will provide the level of resilience you need to confidently move forward.

3. Live and Lead with Honor

To live and lead with honor sets one apart in every area of life. Honor is about integrity, decency, principle, morality, character, nobility, respect, dignity, and high values; see one of my interview videos below for my personal definition of honor.

In the Bible, the Apostle Paul says this:

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8 (NIV)

If you think on these things, you’re more likely to live as an honorable person.

But, an older leader like you can tell a next generation leader that it’s not as easy as it sounds. Fear is always lurking around the corner, and it will take you out. Just look at the dis-honorable behavior we see in our culture, and it comes from greed which is a manifestation of fear.

The antidote to fear for all leaders is courage—leaning into the pain of your fear to do what you know is right even when it doesn’t feel natural of safe. Your continued growth in courage will inspire everyone around you. If there was ever a time our country needs courage, it’s now. We need courageous leaders and citizens of all ages. 


You can play a powerful role—take the courage challenge.


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Lee Ellis

Lee Ellis is Founder & President of Leadership Freedom LLC & FreedomStar Media
He is a leadership consultant and expert in teambuilding, executive development & assessments
Email | LinkedIn | Web | Blog | Book | Facebook | Twitter

His latest book is called Leading with Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton.

Image Sources: siliconcowboy.files.wordpress.com

L2L Contributing Author


  1. kevinbreshears on November 4, 2013 at 9:23 pm

    Great post!

    • Lee Ellis on November 5, 2013 at 1:42 pm

      Thanks Kevin – appreciate you reading it.

  2. kevinbreshears on November 4, 2013 at 9:24 pm

    Reblogged this on The Restaurant Business and commented:
    Leadership with Honor!

  3. Larry Walker on November 11, 2013 at 2:10 pm

    Hi Lee, Excellent post. Thanks for sharing. One aspect that may add to what you write is to think about the ‘value of leadership’ in the US when viewed from a global perspective. The things that our older leaders possess are often taken for granted by the young in this country — and I am confident that they will find their own way.

    What this misses is that these same leadership insights are priceless when viewed from other places that have not had the opportunities we have had here. There are no end of places in other parts of the world where leadership insights would contribute an immense amount. This applies to every field, so the need is vast.

    • Lee Ellis on November 12, 2013 at 12:27 pm

      Great insight, Larry. The global need is great. I recently had a couple of speaking engagements in Brazil back in September, and these business and civic leaders were craving to know more about character-based leadership principles from my stories and experience. Bribery and corruption is prevalent in their culture (as well as the U.S. and other global regions), and many of them have a strong desire to influence their culture for the better.