by Kevin Coupe
The New York Times had a terrific story the other day about how "the average age of incoming C.E.O.s is around 54. While American government remains squarely in the hands of baby boomers - and while its leadership, at least in certain branches, becomes noticeably older - corporate boardrooms are undergoing a transition.
"It’s Gen X’s moment, that generation most known for being crowded out of sweeping cultural age analyses by millennials on one end and boomers on the other … There are plenty of fair critiques of those generational analyses. People are far more complicated than the year they were born — in Gen X’s case, some time between 1965 and 1980. But it’s still true that with new leaders often come new rules. For the country’s newest chief executives, that has meant more trust in flexible and informal ways of working."
The Times notes that "talking about generational divisions can easily backslide into finger pointing. Management experts point out that most of the variance in workplace performance isn’t about how old someone is, but how good their boss is. Broad generational brushstrokes can paper over the deeper conversations needed between workers and their bosses … Still, when old bosses leave and new ones arrive, there are opportunities for rethinking. Workers who benefit from leaving the office early for school pickup can say so. Workers who want more feedback can ask for it. There’s a chance to look at the way things have always been done and ask: Why?"
I think that "why?" may be the most important question that leaders can ask. Now, to be fair, it isn't always a generational question, though I do it is fair to say that new generations are more willing to question what their elders have done. If they're not willing to ask the question, I would argue, they may not be the right leaders.
In the end, though, what I want from leaders is that they be serious people. (I may be channeling Logan Roy here, someone I ordinarily not turn to for lessons in effective 2023 leadership.) Serious. And, in addition, compassionate. Curious. Respectful but not obsequious about tradition. And willing to have their Eyes Opened by fresh insights.