"It's an inescapable reality of getting older: At some point, everyone expects you to retire." - Anne Tergessen, "A Guide to Not Retiring," The Wall Street Journal, March 15, 2015. Here is the article.
Aging thought leaders who intend to stay in the game have to signal to their constituencies that they are not riding into the sunset. That requires doing something that transmits the message: Look, I'm still a fresh thinker and have the infrastructure to implement initiatives.
Recently the media, ranging from The Wall Street Journal to the "Today" show, featured Jack Welch's next book. Even before that, though, he had started his online institute for M.B.A. studies. Had he not taken direct action and had the media cover all that, his thought leadership would have faded.
The reality is that the thought-leadership space is crowded. Even those under-40 have to struggle to continue to get attention for their very particular points of view. 30-something Andrew Bachman had been the voice of entrepreneurship along the Northeast Corridor. Then his legal troubles with the Federal Trade Commission eroded his branding. Can he re-engineer a comeback?
Although thought leadership is difficult to hold onto, the volatility of everything generates lots of opportunities for spotting new dots and connecting them in off-center ways. Legal sector giant Ted Olson, heading toward 80 years old, continues to augment his influence. His reach has been extended through his support of gay marriage. Had social mores not been shifting, Olson would never have had the opportunity to take that stance.
Full Disclosure: Several years ago I had done some communications work for Andrew Bachman.