How Much Do We Owe Our Early Influencers?

statute of limitationsI’m currently undergoing a crisis of conscience. Maybe you can help. Early in my career, I had a manager/mentor who was integral in shaping my view of leadership and business. He was one of my archetypes for how I envision a leader. From the ways he made decisions to the priority he placed on maintaining a positive workplace to his general demeanor, I spent years afterward asking, “What would he do in this situation?” Now, however, I find myself asking whether our relationship must come to an end.

There’s no need to go into details, but through a series of fraudulent actions and increasingly frequent behavioral outbursts, I find myself distancing away from him. I consider myself to be loyal in nature, but where’s the line? And if I break ties, how can I do it without appearing ungracious?

I’m not the only one who has asked this. I recently read that Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen continue to turn down an appearance on Fuller House. Every other actor from the original series stopped by in Season 1, but the Olsens refuse. Without their Full House launch, the Olsens would not be the billionaire fashion moguls they’ve become, so do they “owe it” to the show and the fans to appear or did they pay their debt by helping make Full House the hit show that it was?

In another example, numerous comedians have claimed Bill Cosby as their preliminary source of comedic inspiration and guidance. He illustrated the quintessential functional family via the Huxtables, taught morality life lesson via Fat Albert, and broke down racial barriers via The Tonight Show. With his mounting accusations of criminal wrongdoings, do his apprenticed comedians “owe him” for all of his professional accomplishments over the last 50 years or have his discretions reached a level where they prohibit future accolades?

I am not comparing an absent sitcom actor to a multiply accused rapist. My point is that there must be a statute of limitations on when we no longer “owe” the people who helped us early in our career. And if so, what has to happen for this time to come? We are not minimizing the impact they have had on our success, nor are we disavowing our prior relationship, but we need be able to move on without having to feel guilty for relinquishing our early influencers.

Ultimately, how much do we owe them and for how long?

3 Replies to “How Much Do We Owe Our Early Influencers?”

  1. Mentors, coaches, teachers, and almost anyone can give us gifts which last a lifetime. What they’ve done in other parts of their lives has no bearing on what we’ve received. If the issue or issues which are creating doubt in your mind have become a threat to you, manage that threat. If their legacy to us has no ‘best before’ date, why should our appreciation? We are neither judges or juries and no one person is just one thing.

  2. I believe there does come a time, when, for our own benefit/s and to move forward in our careers and in life that accepting what we have learned from older mentors, coaches, teachers and even therapists….personally, I have experienced many things that have been of great benefit of to me…and then the relationship changes for whatever reason. We can choose to show our appreciation, or in the cases where the relationship may have turned toxic, it is just better to cut ties and move in another direction or make different choices. As you stated it does not negate what we have learned from a person at that time. As humans we can change our minds, change directions, make those choices that are best for us at the time….live is fluid…and not static , as long as we keep moving and learning. There are just times where it is best to move on…due to whatever the circumstances may be.

    1. Absolutely the way i see it. Everything has its time, and there is a time for everything. After that invisible ‘best before’ date, moving on is often the more ultimately satisfying decision. I hate this cliche, but it fits here; short term pain for long term gain.

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