There was a recent article in the Wall Street Journal which focused on the fact that more companies are placing individuals in the CEO role who are members of Gen X (ages 35 to 54). The essence of the article was to discuss three areas where it seems this age group generally has advantages versus the typical baby boomer (ages 55-70) that is in the CEO suite today. Here are the three areas:
Technology – People in the age 35-54 Gen X grouping are typically far savvier in technology than elderly folks. They are comfortable with a variety of devices, anxious to learn the full range of capabilities of new offerings, and have a better chance of understanding the role of social media in today’s world. This not only puts them at an advantage in exploiting technology to run the company more efficiently and effectively but also in marketing, which is evolving fast as social media and search are becoming major advertising tools.
Staffing – The Wall Street Journal article pointed out that the baby boomer generation tends to assume employees will be very loyal to the company. This can cause them to place less emphasis on personnel development and less attention against making work fulfilling to keep employee retention high. One senior partner at a leadership advisory firm pointed out that millennials, in the 20-35 age range, “simply have different expectations of what they are looking for in an employer.” They favor greater flexibility about where and when they work and “their hearts want to be engaged with the company and their work.”
Products – Members of the Gen X demographic have a far better chance of understanding what it takes to keep products and services relevant for the rising millennials. One example given is the CEO of Microsoft, a Gen X, who has allocated a fair amount of time to opening up working relationships with young technology upstarts in Silicon Valley. This is a big change for Microsoft and can pay big dividends by being in at the early stages of emerging technology and the products and services based on those technologies.
So…What Is the Lesson? – Don’t let your age trap you into these typical characteristics. You need to constantly work to stay up-to-date in these three areas as you go about responsibilities.
The fact is that success, as well as working for a long time in a particular area or organization, causes us to get into routines that become very comfortable, and grow mentally old, even if we may not be physically old! That’s why you see so many examples of people reaching levels of success and then being run over by the next wave of change. It happens all the time so beware!