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Article -> Calling Gen Xers to Lead

Date Added: May 2010

Note: This article appeared in the June 2, 2010 issue of The Green Bay Press-Gazette.

Nearly two years ago (July 2008), this Gazette column addressed the need for organizations to prepare Generation X individuals for leadership due to the impending retirement of Baby Boomers. Evidently, it wasn’t well read.

 

Nearly 90% of the world’s top 200 firms are currently led by Boomers (born from 1946 – 1964) or an older generation. The few others are led by a Gen Xer (born from 1965 – 1979). As a Gen Xer, this makes me wonder why.

 

Fortunately, a Boomer recently completed research to provide the answer. Gen Xers believe Boomers will never retire; and if they do, they seek a Generation Y replacement (born from 1980 – 1995) at lower compensation to “mold” them into a similar way of thinking as the Boomer (their words, not mine).

 

Gen Xers were predominantly raised during 1980s. A time of layoffs, domestic change, uncertainty. This has led many to have a view of not being able to influence society, companies are “evil” (watch the movie “Office Space”), no company loyalty because “the company doesn’t care about me.”

 

In an ever-increasing era of transparency, Gen Xers can help us achieve transparency and organizational success as they offer:

  • Collaborating and networking: Gen Xers have strong networks and personal connections. They bridge the gap between Boomer’s face-to-face communication and Gen Ys texting.
  • Asking questions: Their skepticism and distrust resulted in an element of questioning and not taking “no” as an answer.
  • Embracing change: Gen Xers are used to disruption, prepare back-up plans and adapt when things don’t go as planned.
  • Adhering to values: Many have an extremely strong sense of values and ethics – more than other generations.
  • Accepting others: Understanding multiple viewpoints and acknowledging options.

Taken together, Gen Xers present the ability to enhance communication, improve processes by asking questions and accept others’ opinions, be open to change, and raise the levels of corporate identity to a more value-driven organization.

 

Our community is doing okay in the realm of Gen X leaders as Schreiber Foods, Festival, Prevea, AON and United Healthcare come to mind; along with many entrepreneurial firms. We must place Gen Xers into leadership roles as they are logical choice for the immediate future.

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