top of page

Nothing lasts forever...

When it is better to leave ... or... Time to say good-bye...

For some years now, I have been noticing it more and more - the increasing "old wise man syndrome" in the upper echelons. And not just in family businesses, but also in DAX-listed companies, many banks and important institutions that should actually be driving innovation and creative solutions.

Unchangeable personality structure

These men, who really and truly achieved great and influential things at a time when it was appropriate and necessary, are not in a position to let go, step down and let the "younger ones" take the lead.

Instead, they themselves create an image of self-aggrandising, past-orientated, success-obsessed and thus overestimating themselves, narcissistic, stubborn, grossly misjudging, failing to innovate, weak, bossy old men with incontinence problems on the way to dementia.

I am deliberately exaggerating here because some of them are well on the way to embodying this image and are therefore a real threat in some industries and positions.

These men have a personality profile that suggests power and wisdom to others through their own overestimation of their own abilities, does not talk back and secures their position based on past, supposed successes.

Fatal consequences

As a result, their opinions and advice are overvalued by older men, while other perspectives may not be heard in the same way. In some ways, this can lead to the exclusion or marginalisation of other voices and severely limit the diversity of perspectives in decision-making processes or discussions.

This lack of diversity can lead to sub-optimal outcomes.

Furthermore, this persistent overemphasis on the wisdom of older men in key organisations, institutions and positions can reinforce stereotypical ideas about gender roles and ageism. In particular, it perpetuates traditional gender roles and the impression that certain groups of people are automatically wiser or more competent than others because of their age or gender. This is precisely the resistance to the diversity movement that is currently being propagated to the extreme.

However, if new ideas and perspectives are not given sufficient consideration on an ongoing basis, there is an increased risk that innovation will be suppressed and progress slowed down. We can already feel this in many places without the constellations changing much at the moment.

The negative effects, particularly in areas such as technology, finance, pharmaceuticals, science and business, are gradually eating away at past successes, because this is precisely where fresh ideas and different perspectives are crucial for progress.

Generation change

For younger people, the old man/wise man syndrome is limiting, as it prevents them from developing their own skills and perspectives to the same extent. If their contributions and ideas are not taken seriously, this leads to discouragement, self-doubt and a reduced willingness to get actively involved.

As a result, this syndrome leads to a distortion in the way decisions are made and a misjudgement of people's potential based on their age, gender or other characteristics. Instead, organisations should finally ensure that a diversity of perspectives is encouraged and that all voices are heard and valued, regardless of age, gender or other characteristics.

Organisations should therefore actively seek to foster a diverse workforce that includes different age groups, genders, ethnic backgrounds and experiences. By creating an inclusive culture where all voices are heard and valued, they can realise the full potential of all employees.

Raising awareness of stereotypes about age, gender and other characteristics and actively addressing them through training and workshops can help to recognise and overcome prejudice and promote an open and respectful working environment.

Appreciation of the past successes

Again, this is not about demonising or belittling what these men have created in their lives, on the contrary. The good that has been created will continue to be valued and honoured for what it is and what it has contributed to development. It is about building on it and developing it further. It's also not about disempowering everyone and removing them from their positions, but perhaps it makes more sense to pass on their knowledge and experience to younger colleagues through mentoring programmes, for example, while benefiting from their fresh perspectives and new ideas. Reverse mentoring, where younger employees support older mentors, can also help to promote the exchange of knowledge and experience. In this way, both sides can benefit from each other and the old hands do not feel excluded and the young ones are not left to their own devices.

This also ensures that all employees have the opportunity to actively participate. New communication channels can open up, feedback mechanisms can be established and a culture of respectful exchange can be promoted.

This also ensures that all employees have the opportunity to actively participate. New channels of communication can be opened up, feedback mechanisms established and a culture of respectful exchange promoted.

Mission for the management level

Managers and decision-makers should regularly review and reflect on their own assumptions and prejudices to ensure that they do not make decisions based on unconscious bias. By actively analysing different perspectives and being open to new ideas, they can help to quickly overcome the "old wise man syndrome".

The goal should be an inclusive and diverse work environment where all employees can realise their full potential, regardless of their age, gender or other characteristics.

Why is it so hard to let go and step down? You have achieved and done so much good, but your time is over, your tasks have all been completed and now it's the next person's turn.

It hurts my soul to see how little these grey eminences know what to do with themselves when they are no longer allowed to work. It harbours a certain tragedy!

Instead of enjoying their successes and finally living their lives, they don't know what to do with this situation, which makes them look truly pitiful.

One option would really be to integrate them as mentors or senior advisors in certain committees, but in the 2nd and no longer in the 1st row. We can certainly all still benefit from their experience and it makes sense to include them in finding solutions, but the final decision will still be different and will focus on the future rather than the past.

It's time to work together and for each other instead of against each other!



Coaching offers ideal support here to either take the first steps in self-reflection and self-management and to directly implement new skills that enable and empower all those involved to learn to deal well and confidently with relevant situations in relationships.

Trusting that the best possible solution will be allowed to develop and be implemented.


Coaching can provide you with targeted support in overcoming upcoming challenges at every stage - internally in the team or as a leader in the company. Let's work out together how I can provide you in your individual situation with optimal support and customised assistance.

Contact me to take your next steps

Nicole Dildei Coaching

+49 157 58 267 427

Please share the post on:


bottom of page