My husband once announced that I had 200 pairs of shoes.  Hmmpf.

So I went home and counted.  Quick like a bunny I put eight or nine pairs on the Salvation Army stack.  There.  Not 200.  Good.  Hmmpf.

How did he know?  Did he count them when he was putting up those shoe shelves for me?  Why didn’t he mind his own business?  Hmmpf.  Besides, a woman needs this many shoes.  Different seasons.  Different colors.  High and low heels.  Who could possibly get by with fewer?

So this week as I was shopping on ebay for more shoes, I thought of all the connections I could make to leadership.  As a leader myself, I tended to be a collector of wonderful tempting projects and initiatives, just like shoes.  New blue strappy sandals.  Demure grey suede pumps.  Ah, beautiful!  And the new ones all kept in their boxes on top of the shelves and given special treatment at first.  Called attention to.  Like press conferences and press releases for new leadership initiatives or organizational products.  Notice these fabulous new shoes!  Thank you very much.

After time, though, some old shoes wear out.  Some need to be culled to make room for new ones.  It’s a mistake to keep old ones that take up room and prevent us from buying new ones that would fit better or look better or be of better quality.  Same with our leadership.  When we keep just piling things on without regard to removing some old or less useful projects to make room, we can burn out our staff and weaken our efforts to start the new.

My colleague today asked me if I have any navy blue shoes.  I do indeed.  I have no navy blue outfits, but I have three lovely pairs of navy blue shoes that I used to wear with suits I used for interviews, public speeches, and television appearances.  One might fairly ask:

“Why not get rid of the shoes?”  It’s hard to do so when they’re so beautiful and comfortable.  Like old friends.  I like them.  They don’t take up much room.  But I really should put them on the Salvation Army stack.  Someone else could use them.

I don’t really subscribe to the view that shoes go out of style.  Not if you like them.  I have a pair of gorgeous open-toed slingback high heels on which people always compliment me when I wear them.  I have a photo of me wearing them and holding my baby daughter.  Thirty one years ago.  My daughter is thirty one, and so, obviously, are the shoes.  But they still look fabulous.  And I have a second pair from the same vintage:  breathtaking snakeskin strappy heels.  Thirty-five years old.  Are some projects like that?  Timeless and important?  No reason to ever be done with them?  Probably so.  Sometimes a company product is important to maintain even when it is no longer the cash cow.  It speaks to the brand, the history, the reputation.  And it may come back in style, like Hush Puppies.

In my class this week there was a young woman with great shoes.  Nice tan leather with flower flounces on one.  Fabric heels and cutout toes on another.  These shoes are great for someone young.  She can wear them a long time.  For me?  I can admire them but I’m more interested in comfort now.  I am still tempted by high heels, but I can’t wear them all day.  I have to have some “afternoon shoes.”  I bought a lovely pair of green wedged heels and some beautiful red strappy shoes on eBay this week, but I also bought a nice pair of very comfortable and well-made sandals that will serve me well in the afternoons.  I guess maturity brings a few compromises.  A new product or project should be eye-catching and attention-getting, but it’s a mistake if it’s not a fit with the company.

So.  200 pairs?  I’m not sure.  Maybe 200, if that’s the established norm.  But no more.  Just two hundred.  The navy shoes have got to go!

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