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Barry Posner

Barry Posner

Barry Posner is Dean of the Leavey School of Business and Professor of Leadership at Santa Clara University.

Knowing when to move on

Q: When he died this week, Robert Byrd, who was a frail 92, had represented West Virginia in the Senate for more than 50 years. Is it generally a good idea for top leaders in any sector to serve that long, or that late in life? Given the common instinct to hang on, should limits be imposed?

The old adage "Where there is a will, there is a way" helps to explain why leadership knows no age boundaries, from 12 to 92 years of age.

That said, there is a challenge for leaders, not unlike professional athletes, to know when to retire, let go, and move on. Being in the limelight is heady stuff and often hard to step out of; which often means that transitions should be "to" something rather than "away from" something.

Still, while there are exceptions (both positive and negative), and we'd probably lose more good leaders by imposing "term limits" than we would benefit by forcing some to go after some arbitrary period of time.

By Barry Posner

 |  June 28, 2010; 2:48 PM ET
Category:  Leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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West Virginia could have had 3 great Senators in the time Bryd held his stranglehold on their seat (not HIS seat). This has little to do with the views of his constituents and much to do with the power of the entrenched incumbent.

"12 years and OUT" for all elected federal officials... 3 terms for POTUS/VPOTUS, 2 terms for Senators and 6 terms for Representatives. Plenty of time for each politician do accomplish something while reducing the possibilities of the "professional politician."

Posted by: wildfyre99 | June 29, 2010 11:15 AM
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Remember those Republicans who got elected to Congress by supporting term limits in the nineties? Many of them ran for re-election in defiance of their pledges.
The classic was Strom Thurmond, who said he supported term limits and served in the U.S. Senate until he was 100 years old.

Posted by: jrsposter | June 29, 2010 10:40 AM
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Term limits would solve a lot of problems.

It has little to do with age. It has to do with absolute power corrupting absolutely, and states competing to have the most tenured senator for the sole reason of funneling Federal money to their state. An inevitable result is a cozy relationship between big-moneyed lobbyists and long-term elected officials, who need lots of campaign funds in order to continue to enjoy the power and perks of office. At a certain point, their loyalty shifts from the people they represent to their financial benefactors.

Term limits would ensure a more balanced power structure among our elected representatives, and better representation of their actual constituents.

Posted by: postfan1 | June 29, 2010 3:54 AM
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