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Great Leadership Requires Plenty Of Practice

The mass exodus of Baby Boomers from the workplace has already begun. According to the US Office of Personnel Management, between 2006 and 2010 Boomer retirement will have robbed American companies of nearly 290,000 full-time experienced employees.

The mass exodus of Baby Boomers from the workplace has already begun. According to the US Office of Personnel Management, between 2006 and 2010 Boomer retirement will have robbed American companies of nearly 290,000 full-time experienced employees.While the financial crisis has forced some to postpone retirement for a couple extra years, we can't count on the majority of them to be fully contributing members of the workforce much longer.Yet, Boomers hold the majority of major leadership roles in the workplace and their retirement creates a leadership gap that must be filled by the next generation.As an Xer, I'm often questioned as to whether or not the Xers and Ys can fill the Boomer's shoes. Are we loyal enough? Will we work hard enough? Are we, the Boomer's successors, up to the challenge?Our predecessors have little faith in us, and an increasingly downtrodden economy and shaky future mandates that we figure out why our future leaders are well-educated, tech-savvy, and brilliant multi-taskers, yet lag in such a critical skill as leadership.Here's some fascinating research from TalentSmart, a provider of emotional intelligence (EQ) products and services. TalentSmart researchers have been devoted to determining what exactly constitutes a high quality leader and discovered that EQ–the ability to recognize and manage your emotions and those of other people–is the single most important skill of a successful leader.TalentSmart tested a group of 10,614 people between the ages of 18 and 80, and broke down their score results into the four generations in today's workplace. When they looked at each of the four core EQ skills separately, a huge gap emerged between Boomers and Generation Y in self-management.When it comes to managing their emotions, Baby Boomers reign supreme. Essentially, they are much less prone to fly off the handle when things don't go their way than are the younger generations.TalentSmart reportedly debated the possible explanations for this chasm in self-management skill between the experienced and youthful. One possibility seemed that coming of age with too many video games, instantaneous Internet gratification, and adoring parents have created a generation of self-indulgent young workers who can't help but wear their emotions on their sleeves in tense situations.This result would closely coincide with our reputation for being ego-centric and uncapable.Then TalentSmart looked at the data from another angle and the picture became clearer. Self management skills appear to increase steadily with age-60-year-olds scoring higher than 50-year- olds, who scored higher than 40-year-olds, and so on.That means the younger generation's deficient self-management skills have little to do with things we can't change, like the effects of growing up in the age of iPods and MySpace.Instead, TalentSmart concluded that Generations X and Y just haven't had as much life in which to practice managing their emotions. That's good news because practice is something employers can give us, while a change in our upbringing is not.TalentSmart also advocated for accelerating the younger generations' development of core leadership skills, stating: "Today's ultra-competitive, fast-paced global marketplace won't afford us the time to sit back and wait for the aging process to run its course. Despite the slumping economy, most boomers will retire sooner rather than later. We need to prepare talented twentysomethings for leadership roles today."In other words, if we don't teach them how to manage themselves, and don't give them the opportunity to manage themselves, is it reasonable to expect Ys to lead us towards a prosperous future?

Sarah Sladek

Concerned about declining engagement in our nation’s membership associations, non-profits, and workplaces, Sarah Sladek founded XYZ University, the nation’s first and only generations-focused training and engagement strategy company, in 2002.

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