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John R. Ryan
Military/Administrative leader

John R. Ryan

John R. Ryan is president of the nonprofit Center for Creative Leadership, a top-ranked, global provider of executive education.

Unsolicited Advice

Having served in a variety of leadership roles in the U.S. Navy and in higher education, it's always been my policy after stepping down to offer advice to my successors privately and only when they ask for it. Offering unsolicited advice risks undermining the current leader. It also gets people thinking about the past rather than the future, and that can divide organizations and communities instead of bringing them together and uniting them around future-oriented goals.

Now, of course, if you're attacked publicly by an incumbent, then you have a right to defend yourself. But even so, situations like that are unfortunate, unproductive and should be avoided whenever possible. When taking on a new role, the wisest leaders always go to the men and women who have served in that role previously and ask for their insights and support. They thank those former leaders personally and sometimes publicly for their contributions. Then they move on and let their own record of accomplishments in their new role speak for itself.

By John R. Ryan

 |  May 14, 2009; 1:48 PM ET
Category:  Followership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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