Just as every generation before us and after us, we are shaped by our experiences and our environments. There is so much talk about the rise of the millennials and the rise of Gen Z that you would almost be forgiven in missing the exciting future ahead with the rise of Generation X leaders. I am really excited about the transition that we are seeing across business all over the world.
The way we interpret the world is heavily influenced by our teenage years. Between 11 and 13 years old, we start understanding who we are and what we stand for, and as we step into the teenage years we start practicing and playing with our values and beliefs. Gen X grew up in the 80’s and 90’s. This was an exciting time as we saw huge economic and political change across the world. The cold war came to an end, walls were coming down all over Europe, Thatcher’s Britain created the mindset of growth and opportunity. Politicians were changing and so were the role models and movie heroes with Culture Club, Madonna and Cool Britannia.
There were also rising divorce rates and latch key kids became self-sufficient as their mums took important roles in the workplace. In this world, the teenagers learned that nothing was forever, and everyone, no matter what you age, gender, sexual orientation or race, was free to live and express themselves. Growing up in these times have shaped our leaders and therefore I am hopeful for the future and here’s why
1. Work hard/play hard
Gen X learned that you are the masters of your own destiny and if you want something you need to go and get it. For many, their youth was full of fun and experience and opportunity, universities opened up and families took holidays abroad to get precious bonding time. Parents worked hard so the concept of balance was ingrained in their kids. As today’s leaders, they are great role models for bringing that ‘work hard, but don’t forget the fun times’ attitude into the work place. Millennials might be about the experience, but Gen X know how to get it.
2. Risk Taking
These kids were taught that it was OK to try and to fail on your way to success. Their baby boomer parents had provided them with a safe home and job for life stability, and Gen Xers began to take risks in the knowledge that they were safe. This inner confidence and resilience means that we have a band of bold and courageous leaders moving our businesses forward and this excites me.
3. They have heart
The boomers had the stiff upper lip attitudes, but as the Gen Xers entered the workforce a shift was already starting to happen. They experienced teamwork, coaching, people development and the practice of emotional intelligence. Of course, they had the role models of the stoic boomers, but mixed with an internal focus too. The Gen X leader is both rational and emotional, head and heart, hard and soft.
There probably wasn’t much diversity when they entered the workplace, but because they had grown up with huge change in their society, they are open to other cultures, equality and people. This generation focuses on talent and meritocracy over tradition and conformity and as they build teams and businesses we see that influence. We already see it evolving in governments and large corporations and it is filtering into the smaller businesses. As the Gen Xers lead, so will the opportunity for diversity and equality.
5. Techno kids
This generation aren’t afraid of technology, in fact they embrace it. New and emerging technology excites the new leaders and yet they are still grounded in the art of conversation. Yes, we were all slaves to our blackberries at one time, but now the leaders understand how to use technology to increase performance, reach out to their customers and manage their work life balance. The leaders can hold courageous and powerful conversations because these skills were developed early in their childhood. They are a perfect mix of the old and new.
All in all, I am excited to see how the world is changing as the Gen X leaders take up key positions. With their blend of old and new, they are the bridge from the past to the new global, multi-generational and diverse world. Surely that is something to be embraced.
Her clients are market leaders in their field across many different industries but all have one thing in common - they believe that people are their greatest asset, but can be the biggest barrier to success.
Creating a safe space for clients to gain clarity on the key blocks in their business, Lucy and her team create solutions for high performance including coaching, behavioural profiling, consultancy and team development.
Latest posts by Lucy Barkas (see all)
- The future with Gen X leaders – 5 reasons to be hopeful - June 27, 2017
- The neuroscience of high performance cultures - June 8, 2017