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Many leaders are prone to an “identity trap.” They have a disproportionate focus on career, which makes it difficult to move comfortably into retirement due to the impact of this role loss. Contributing factors are the long work hours most family business leaders put in, and the loss of benefits/status, decision-making authority, and administrative support inherent to retirement. Surrounding all of this is the feeling of lack of purpose many retiring leaders anticipate or experience. Leaders can avoid the identity trap by recognizing over-commitment to professional identity, developing interests beyond work, planning carefully—especially for what will be lost—and even practicing their “pitch,” or what they’ll say when people ask what they’re doing in retirement.
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William Bridges, Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes (Da Capo Press, Cambridge, 2004), p. 116.
Stephen Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change (Simon & Schuster, New York, 1989).
As reported by Lydia Saad, “The “40-Hour” Work Week is Actually Longer—by 7 Hours,” Gallup.com, August 29, 2014, http://www.gallup.com/poll/175286/hour-workweek-actually-longer-seven-hours.aspx (accessed January 27, 2016).
For an academic perspective on this issue, see Peter J. Burke and Donald C. Reitzes, “An Identity Theory Approach to Commitment,” Social Psychology Quarterly, September 1991, 54(3), pp. 239–251.
S. Gee and J. Baillie, “Happily Ever After? An Exploration of Retirement Expectations,” Educational Gerontology, 1999, 25, pp. 109–128.
See, for example, Nancy Schlossberg, Revitalizing Retirement: Reshaping your Identity, Relationships, and Purpose (American Psychological Association, Washington, DC, 2009).
Max Nisen, “Top CEOs Work Crazy Hours Even on Normal Days,” Business Insider, April 4, 2013, http://www.businessinsider.com/top-ceo-schedules-2013-4 (accessed January 27, 2016).
For more on this transition-related challenge, see William Bridges and Susan Bridges, Managing Transitions (Da Capo, Philadelphia, 2009).
See, for example, David Rock, “SCARF: A Brain-based Model for Collaborating with and Influencing Others,” NeuroLeadership Journal, 2008, 1, 1–9.
Betty Friedan, Fountain of Age (Simon & Schuster, New York, 1993, p. 613).
Y. Benyamini and J. Lomranz, “The Relationship of Activity Restriction and Replacement with Depressive Symptoms Among Older Adults,” Psychology and Aging, 2004, 19, pp. 362–366.
See for example Carter-related anecdotes in Peter Buffett, Life Is What You Make It, Three Rivers Press, New York, 2010.
- Beware the Identity Trap
Stephanie Brun de Pontet
- Palgrave Macmillan US
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