“Leadership has a shelf life.”

These were the words used by General Electric President and CEO Jeffrey Immelt at the 2014 Global Leadership Summit to describe one reason GE spends upwards of $1 Billion Dollars (Yes…with a “B” as in “Bravo”) each year to train and develop leaders.
Wow. Just…wow. Less than 15 countries have a GDP more than $1Billion Dollars (in case you were wondering.)

Immelt went on to clarify that he was not talking about leadership principles…”Principles are timeless but leadership is not static.”
Leadership is not static…it has a shelf life. The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that everything is in a constant state of deterioration.
The moment we are born we begin to die. What goes up….must come down. And leaders, even the best of us…leak.

If unchecked, we will find ourselves running “flat” and the impact on the organization can be described as “rough” at best.
So what are we to do? While you can’t account for every “nail” in the road…there are a few things we can do to guard against leadership leakage.

1. Check Your Gauges.
Ignore that “Low Air” gauge too long and you may find yourself riding on nothing but rim. Failure to be mindful of how you are doing as a leader puts your whole organization at risk. So take a moment and ask yourself, “How am I doing?” and “Whats life like for the people I lead?”. Your answer may surprise you.

2. Get a Second Opinion.
Leaders often fail to think about how they are doing but employees track your leadership performance in real-time. They know how you are doing and your performance as a leader is part of their daily conversation. Have the courage to ask others, “How am I doing?”and join the conversation.

3. Do Regular Maintenance.
Remember that no know matter how educated and experienced we are as leaders…we leak. What got you here won’t necessarily get you there. So put yourself in a position to learn new thing…to be reminded of old things.

Leadership has a shelf life. Left alone…it will expire and become irrelevant. But when leaders get better…everybody wins.

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