Redefining Yourself in Retirement


Nobody is irreplaceable. I recently read, with great interest, a piece about how US Healthcare sector CEOs were preparing for their retirement. I gained a sense that they tended to view themselves as a bit irreplaceable.

I recently chanced upon a piece on a US based healthcare website where they had asked five CEOs about their preparations for retirement. The piece is here.

What struck me most was how a number of them hinted at being a bit “irreplaceable”, of course they didn’t say exactly that, but they gave a few clues:

  • “I’m trying to prepare my team for the gap that will likely occur…”
  • “…I can facilitate anything they need help with..”
  • “…making sure that nothing drops through the cracks…”
  • “…structured conversations with me…”
  • “…I spent the last year in an exercise where I did four deep dives on our major initiatives. … to get the board fully up to date on the initiatives”

Of course these types of activity are all important and possibly I’m reading too much into some of their words, but there did seem to be a whiff of “the indispensable man”.

Sometime when you’re feeling important;
Sometime when your ego’s in bloom
Sometime when you take it for granted
You’re the best qualified in the room,

Sometime when you feel that your going
Would leave an unfillable hole,
Just follow these simple instructions
And see how they humble your soul;

Take a bucket and fill it with water,
Put your hand in it up to the wrist,
Pull it out and the hole that’s remaining
Is a measure of how you will be missed.

You can splash all you wish when you enter,
You may stir up the water galore,
But stop and you’ll find that in no time
It looks quite the same as before.

The moral of this quaint example
Is do just the best that you can,
Be proud of yourself but remember,
There’s no indispensable man.


We definitely want to be responsible and to handover to our successors in a thorough and controlled way, but if we believe that when we take our hand out of the bucket of water, that a gap will remain, then we might be defining ourselves a bit too much by our work.