Change Conversations Dialogue Leadership Reflection

Old School

No matter how deeply routed certain beliefs are, one should always be open to the possibility that these beliefs no longer effectively serve the purpose that once was considered the truth.

What do you do with milk that has expired? 

What do you do with clothes that are no longer in fashion? 

What do you do with beliefs that no longer fit in modern times?

Recently I heard the term ‘old school’ again from two different sources within two days.

It had been a while since I heard the term, so it triggered a reaction. 

In both cases, they were used as a badge of honor for principles and personality traits from the past.

In both cases, they implicitly dismissed the new reality of this ever-changing world.

I guess you can read in my words and the way they’re written what I think of Old School.

But you’re mistaken.

When people use the words Old School, they often refer to how things were done in the past.


Law and order, strict rules, no space for interpretation, consistency in behavior, sticking to your opinions, directing and telling, traditional, conservative, accountability.

There’s nothing wrong with these principles and traits.

I’ve worked in retail. You need standard operating procedures. Otherwise, it becomes a mess. 

I travel a lot by plane. You need clear rules and regulations. Otherwise, people will die in the airspace.

I like to be productive in my work every day. I need consistency in the way I start and get through my days.

I just don’t like the term Old School. 

Because it is almost always connected to a specific resistance and rigidity to change.

Procedures in retail change. Air traffic regulations are constantly evolving. And also, my habits are subject to reflection constantly. 

When we don’t change, we move backward.

That’s why I don’t like the term old school. Because it very often dismisses new beliefs in beliefs, relationships, culture, and leadership.

I recently got feedback from somebody close, and I trust that I don’t always listen well. 

It caused moments of deep reflection because I pride myself as a good listener. But to this person, it didn’t seem to be like that.

No matter how deeply routed certain beliefs are, one should always be open to the possibility that these beliefs no longer effectively serve the purpose that once was considered the truth. 

There’s always a new and evolving context. 

Another reason why ‘old school’ came up is that I received feedback I’m soft in my leadership. It happens now and then.

What’s true is I’m not the ‘Old School’ type of leader described above.

I believe in holding people able and trusting them so they hold themselves accountable.

I believe in asking questions more than directing people.

I also believe that context often decides the appropriate behavior or style.

That makes it messy, I’ll admit. It’s not always clear what situation requires what approach.

That’s why good communication matters, and we all suck at times at communicating well. 

Good communication is listening first.

We’re constantly fed with data that we need to translate into information and insights, which we then leverage to behave the way we behave.

If data provides us with insights that we might be wrong, we must adapt.

Is that soft? 

I don’t think so. I think it’s adaptive. 

We live in a constantly changing, fast-paced world. A world that requires us to evolve.

In a world with multiple realities, we need to be able to balance, holding on to the idea that there’s possibly more than one truth.

Therefore I don’t believe in old, new, modern, or other schools.

I believe in ‘school’ as such, representing the idea that we are forever learners.

Your turn: How adaptive are you? 

Do more of what makes you happy!


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Erikjan Lantink
Business & Leadership Coach

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