What Is the Joe Paterno/Rupert Murdoch Syndrome?

Business Leader Post, July 12, 2012

Thomas D. Davidow, Ed.D.

I have written before about the difficulty of letting go and, specifically, how it gets more and more difficult once you reach the age of 70. I have also talked about the emotional challenges of letting go, and I have continually asked those surrounding individuals who are in that process to be empathetic to their struggle. Clearly they built the organizations, and they have a “right to hang on.”

What I never discussed but what has become clear to me is the damage that can be done when people hang onto their positions far beyond their years of maximum performance. Do they have a right to hang on to their positions with diminished skills and when their allegiance is stronger towards their own legacies than it is to the efficiencies of their organizations?

The latest two examples of talented and honorable men who made the mistake of hanging on too long tell me that their hanging on was in fact selfish. The consequences of their mistakes have tarnished their legacies and damaged the institutions they spent so many years cultivating and building. If I could have, I would have whispered, cajoled and repeated in their ears at least a decade earlier to “Let go!”

I ask those of you who are in danger of holding on too long to consider that the damage you fear will happen if you let go can be dwarfed by the damage you can do if you hold on too long.