One leadership group that is poised to jump to the forefront as the Baby Boomer generation retires is Generation X. Born between 1965 and 1980, this once-ignored and underappreciated generation has slowly emerged to take over the C-suite. With multi-generational teams making up today’s workforce, inevitable conflicts occur over issues such as management and operational styles, technology use and overall decision-making. Can Generation X provide the leadership qualities to merge the generations? And what are some of the most influential qualities that Gen X leaders possess that can help take our organizations successfully into the next decade?
X Marks the Spot:
The power of Generation X lies in its good blend of traditional Boomer values and the technological savvy and entrepreneurial bent of the Millennial generation. As the economy continues to evolve and grow – globally and technologically — GenX can help companies evolve with fresh ideas and perspectives. The GenX employee has lived with less wealth than their Boomer parents, yet has developed a healthy balance of saving and spending, making them masters at doing more with less. GenX is used to working in flatter organizations with fewer middle-management positions, as opposed to the hierarchal structure of the Boomer generation. Thus, they are used to doing more with less, remaining agile and nimble in their quest to improve efficiencies and produce cost savings within the organization. Despite their frugality, GenXers have enormous spending power and tremendous influence in the world economy. According to the US Department of Labor, Gen X currently spends more money per household than any other generation.
Generation X workers are very educated, with more than 35% of them having college degrees. They are also great innovators and entrepreneurs. Successful GenX entrepreneurs include Elon Musk, founder of PayPal®, Tesla Motors® and SpaceX®; Michael Dell of Dell Computer®; Sara Blakely of Spanx®, and Jack Dorsey of Twitter®. Most GenX entrepreneurs were entering their careers about the time of the dot-com boom and bust of the 1990s, so they possess the innovative spirit of the new Millennials with the practical and traditional values of the Boomer generation. Many World-class brands such as Microsoft® and Yahoo® have begun placing Gen X employees in leadership positions, recognizing the value they bring to the boardroom. In preparing for the inevitable exit of the Boomer generation in the workforce, Generation X leaders will emerge and take over the helm successfully, while providing the mentorship opportunities for Millennials to continue to grow and emerge behind them.
Closing the Digital Divide
One of the biggest benefits and influences of Generation X is their ability to bridge the digital gap within the new, multi-generational workforce. They’re technologically savvy, like Millennial digital natives, but they can engage and reach out to communicate effectively in person as well, like their previous Boomer generation. Because of this, they are great influencers and mentors to both the older and younger generations, making them great leaders for today’s modern companies. Their management style combines relationship-driven methods with automated digital communication to balance the needs of all generation of workers, while using technology to work smarter, not harder.
Can Generation X Leaders Succeed?
The effectiveness of Generation X in the C-suite depends on their ability to manage several crucial factors, including how to:
- Navigate growing cultural and generational divides
- Adapt to increased globalization and competition
- Utilize new technology to communicate, automate and streamline business
As agencies look to transition leadership to the new generation, they must embrace these changes occurring in the marketplace and in the technological world.
A New Way of Marketing:
As consumer habits and the new economy continues to evolve, companies must develop innovative ways of marketing to customers, particularly when it comes to reaching the new tech-savvy Millennial and post-Millennial Generation Z spenders of the future. Generation X leaders can provide new perspectives on how to initiate marketing programs that reach these new audiences, incorporating digital, mobile and social media into the traditional marketing mix.
A Smooth Transfer of Power:
Companies looking to trust executive leadership to a Generation X employee should start by creating a long-term vision and strategy for the succession planning process. They should start by identifying any potential candidates internally, and then evaluating their skills and qualifications for leadership. Following the identification process, they can put training and development programs in place to groom future leaders for taking over the C-suite. Finally, companies should start giving Gen X leaders the opportunity to manage others, take on important projects, get involved in community efforts, and gain visibility in an executive role. Ongoing mentorship with potential GenX leaders will help boost confidence and help them feel comfortable taking over the role when the timing is right.
The rise of the Gen X leader will eventually occur, so companies should begin to prioritize the development and nurturing of these future Leaders to ensure that their companies grow and evolve in the new economy.