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Passing the Baton: From Baby Boomers to Generation X

For years now, members of the Baby Boomer generation have been running operations at major corporate entities, but recent data suggests that the workforce is changing and so too is its leadership. According to a recent Gallup poll, 31 percent of today’s workforce is approaching or reaching 61 years of age – the average age of retirement – or 65 – the traditional retirement age.  With impending retirement threatening the frontlines, businesses need to prepare for new leadership to take reign. Enter Generation X.

To make this a smooth transition, you have to understand that Generation X, next in line, will undoubtedly lead differently than Baby Boomers. They were raised in a different time and have different values and experiences to bring to the table. However, this is not to say that there aren’t characteristics Generation X can adopt from Baby Boomers.

Motivating a New Generation

At the same time, business as we know it is changing and it is only natural that its leadership will as well. Their history has shaped their attitudes and values. They are likely the most misunderstood generation yet they possess skills of value and if given the chance, can be effective leaders. The following points will help you better understand their leadership style so your organization won’t skip a beat.

Point 1: Advocates for a favorable work-life balance

Gen Xers felt the brunt of triple divorce rates and parents who saw more of their work than their families. Now they are choosing to make different lifestyle choices. Now when the 5 o’clock dinner bell rings, you’ll likely find a quieter office. This isn’t to say that they are less involved at work, but they find value in having personal time and their employees will reap those benefits as well.

Point 2: Micromanaging becomes a thing of the past

Gen Xers value autonomy. They are more independent, which may seem as though they are disengaged, when in fact they really just encourage free-thinking. There isn’t a need to micromanage. They can give an assignment and then step back assuming it will get done. They can appreciate and trust the abilities of their colleagues. Unlike with Baby Boomers you can expect there to be a high level of freedom in the work environment.

Point 3: Creative is in

Given their knowledge of technology, Gen Xers function differently than their Baby Boomer predecessors. Xers are savvier to the new technologies and will bring that to the forefront of businesses as leaders. Technology will become more pertinent in everyday business, which can open the doors for innovation.

Point 4: They acknowledge results not time

Xers want to be rewarded based on the quality of their work not quantity (time) they put into it. This can be seen through their management of others, showing favor to outcomes. More time to them doesn’t necessarily coordinate with more or better productivity. However, as noted above they are more likely to utilize the latest trends in technology, helping to accomplish more with less.

A lot is changing in the coming years as Baby Boomers pass over the leadership baton and Gen Xers strive to fill in the gaps. Gen Xers will be taking on great responsibility managing one of the most evolutionary generations – The Millennials – during one of the biggest transitions in history. Their autonomy, resilience and intelligence will hold up well in the business environment.