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Berger Blog

Expanding the discussion of Generatonal issues in organizations, Leadership, and Individual & Professional Growth.

Missing the generational boat

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

I pay a lot of attention to generational issues -- in organizations, in the community, in society. And I've been thinking about where leadership and generations come together.

Of all the stuff that rattles around in my brain, one thing that comes through painfully clear is the way gap that I see where leaders (or potential and aspiring leaders) totally miss the boat leading across the generations. The most glaring example that comes screaming across the headlines every day is in the US presidential race. You would either think that every American voter is a Baby Boomer (born between '46-64) or older or that the campaigns are blowing it when it comes to two entire generational groups (with more than 100 million people of voting age being ignored).

Now, I realize that there are certainly some thing the parties are doing to pay some attention to Gen Xers (born between '65-'80) and Millennials (born between '81-'00). But not much. And many businesses and organizations are guilty of the same thing.

The reality is that the majority of the wealth and power in our society right now is in the hands of the Boomers and the Traditionalists (born before '46). Another reality that I know from years of work with leaders and businesses is that people lead in the same ways they like to be led themselves. So a Boomer leader is likely to lead others in ways that suit him or her.

However, we have reached a breaking point in the generations. As of 2005 (that's next year, folks), the numbers of Xers and Millennials workforce will begin to surpass the number of Boomers and Traditionals. And while that balance of power isn't likely to shift quite yet, that shift is on the horizon, and its not so far off.

The result of this lact of attention to the younger generations is certainly evident. In campaigns, we have to endure the MTV appearances of candidates wearing sweaters. In organizations, it creates subcultures within the population that contribute far less to the bottom line than they could. The creativity, the connection to a huge part of the population, the leadership that most companies are totally blowing is almost too big to imagine.

Now is when we need to take some new steps to engage this 100+ million person group. There are distinct differences between the Xers and Millennials, but there are some common themes, like they did not serve in Vietnam, they do not have any illusions of corporate permanence and ethics, and they do not want to be ignored.

What steps can you think about taking?
posted by Michael Berger, 1:06 PM | link | 3 comments |
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