Great Ideas Leadership Lessons 3: Learn About Generations

(Lessons 1 and 2 are posted here and here)

This was arguably the hardest one to pick 80s music for for me, but that doesn't make it any less important. Those who know me know that I think generations are important, but there were a few points that I particularly wanted to highlight around the topic of generations and leadership.

First, I think Generation X is going to lead differently. That was the impetus behind the Hourglass Blog that I write with Eric Lanke, and I posted more detailed thoughts about this part of the Great Ideas session over there.

Second, beyond all the generational differences in values, attitudes, and behavior, we frequently overlook the basic demographics of the generations that will have a serious impact on leadership. The Boomers and the Millennials are both huge populations–the two biggest generations in our nation's history. Generation X is MUCH smaller. This means that all the organizational structures we have in place now were created as a large generation was moving up through the ranks. At the big picture level, we won't be able to fill those slots with Generation X. So we either need to restructure things or put people in those slots who do NOT have the same level of experience as those who are vacating them.

Third, I think the Millennial generation also leads differently, and I don't think they are going to wait as patiently as Generation X has. Enabled by the social web, Millennials do a lot themselves, and it's going to change what leadership means. These days associations debate at the leadership level whether or not they should create a Facebook page for their association, and when they finally get approval to do so they discover that there are already 28 different groups on Facebook about them, most of which are using the association's logo! How will leadership in our organizations adapt to a group that won't necessarily wait for us?