Friday, 18 December 2015

A brief 'tip of the hat'.

The Baby Boom generation is gradually giving up the reins of leadership.  Today in the USA about 10,000 people will turn age 65.  As this is the historical age for retirement it is fair to assume that a significant percentage of these people are leaving positions of responsibility.  This phenomenon began about 5 years ago.  And it will continue unabated for the next 15 years!  Full disclosure; I am a Baby Boomer FIFO (first in, first out)

If you are a return reader of my blogs you will know that I am somewhat critical of the level of leadership sophistication that exists in most organizations.  By extension it is fair to say that I am critical of my generational peers.

Today I want to give a brief respite to the criticisms in favour of a brief explanation.

When boomers entered the workforce, most of our supervisors, and virtually all of our managers and executives had two important experiences in common.  The first was that most had lived through the Great Depression. And secondly, all had survived the Second World War.  These two seminal events in our collective history forged rather hardened personalities.

On the one hand these men (yes, men) were glad to have a job, any job.  They had seen millions who were not so fortunate lining up at soup kitchens or travelling the trains looking for any employment that could feed them.  And on the other hand they were happy to be alive.  Everyone of them would have been touched by the loss of a friend or relative during WWII.  These events shaped their 'world view' and created demons that few of us have to deal with.

In the post war workplace jobs became as plentiful as apples on trees.  Those filling positions of leadership often lacked education and perspective. So they did their best, managing by seat of their pants and deploying the techniques that they had learned; street smarts and a 'commander-in-chief' model. (Both of the presidents of my first two employers were high school graduates.) 

Under the circumstances, who can blame them?  Yet these were the role models for the Baby Boomer generation.  The formal study of leadership only took hold in the 70's and most of that was looking at how leadership differed from managing.  It really did not provide clues to teach effective, authentic leadership. Even most MBA programs still deploy a 'case study' approach that focuses on processes and strategies while giving only passing thought to the subject of leadership.

Fast forward to 2015.  We have a mobile, well educated collection of potential employees.  They are 'connected' and socially aware with different priorities such as care for the planet. We have an explosion of knowledge and live, quite literally, in a global village.  It is little wonder that the old leadership models don't work. They were fashioned from a bygone era...and they really were barely suitable even then.

Leadership today demands a level of authenticity and transparency that Boomer's bosses could not conceive.  Damaged as they were they from their experiences, being macho and hard-assed were more common character traits.

Today I give thanks to the many bosses that I had in my career.  Most gave it their best.  It is just that their best was not all that good.

What I will not excuse is the void in leadership today.  I can forgive the uninformed and ill equipped of yesteryear.  But we know better now and rightly expect more from those running the show who steadfastly refuse to change.  It is these dinosaurs that need to escorted to the door, age 65 or not!

I'm done talking...

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