Outside of the two years when I left for another gig at our local hospital, I’ve been with this organization since 1999. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what that means. 

Some good friends have now retired or are thinking more seriously about retirement. There is also a noticeable change; I am no longer the “kid” who is excited to embrace change, try new things and strive for the next big thing. More and more, I find myself thinking and talking about the next generation and my role in helping develop them for the future. 

Leadership is a finicky thing. Just when you think you are starting to figure things out, there is a calling or responsibility to help develop others. A good responsibility, not a negative responsibility. I know there are others who embrace this same responsibility; I wish there were more. Will it be enough? For our long-term care field specifically, will it be enough?

We know, according to Gallup (Strengths-Based Leadership), stability is one of the four basic needs followers crave from leaders. We’ve talked about those four needs each month this year in this blog. Trust, compassion, stability, and hope are the four basic needs. I am more and more curious about the word stability.

Specifically: Does longevity automatically mean stability? I’m leaning more and more this way: Longevity may provide the appearance of stability, but we shouldn’t assume just being somewhere for years means we are providing what our team needs. 

I’ve had the experience of working with people who feel longevity means they are “owed” something. Certainly, there is an appreciation for loyalty, but “a long time” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s been a good time. For those of us who have been around a while, we must still think creatively, get excited about change, and most importantly, continue to learn. 

There is a whole generation coming up who we need to join us in long-term care. We cannot let our COVID hangover, regulation exhaustion or workforce woes scare them from our great field. That is offering stability. Those of us who have been in the field for 20-plus years absolutely need to carve the path, but then we must get out of the way. Don’t misunderstand: We can’t leave, but we certainly can be more welcoming, more flexible and more open to new ideas and energy. 

I may no longer be the kid worried about figuring it out. But I am excited to be the silver sister who’s been around a while ready to embrace change, try new things, and strive for the next big thing. To me, that is what providing stability is absolutely about. 

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Julie Thorson was the 2018 recipient of the LeadingAge Dr. Herbert Shore Outstanding Mentor of the Year award. She currently co-facilitates LeadingAge Iowa’s Leadership Academy. She is a Leading Age Academy fellow and former coach. The Head Coach (president and CEO) of Friendship Haven, a life plan community in Fort Dodge, IA, Thorson is a coach’s daughter at heart. A former part-time nursing home social worker, she is a licensed nursing home administrator and completed LeadingAge’s Leadership Educator Program in 2019.

The opinions expressed in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News guest submissions are the author’s and are not necessarily those of McKnight’s Long-Term Care News or its editors.

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