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Passing the Torch: 3 Tips for Baby Boomer Leaders

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Tue Feb 17 2015

Passing the Torch: 3 Tips for Baby Boomer Leaders
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Put simply, there is no success without a successor. As senior managers in most organizations are aging (sorry, Boomers, but it’s true), there is a potential dilemma building: proven leaders are hesitant in passing the leadership keys to the younger generations. 

As this passage is inevitable, current leaders should not have fear about this progression, as the transition can be smooth if all parties work co-jointly. Here are three tips for Boomers ready to pass the torch to younger leaders. 

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Congratulate Yourself     

Boomers have done a remarkable job building organizations into what they are, and many of today’s leaders came from little to nothing. 

Instead of a power struggle between generations, there should be a celebration. All eras should honor and rejoice in the path that has been paved by the Baby Boomers. Simultaneously, there should be recognition that the Gen X and Millennial generations—although different—are no less capable of sustaining and elevating long-term successes that have already been established.    

A main factor in this delicate transition lies in not putting the expectations, responsibility, and accountability squarely on a single generation. From a leadership perspective, sustaining business success moving forward can be viewed from both a philosophical and practical angle.   

On the side of the Baby Boomers, a state of letting go would be helpful in the shifting progression. Boomers had an equation for success that increased exponentially for decades. But, as with everything, change is imminent. 

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The time for a new, but no less productive, style of leadership is upon us. Whether Boomers grip tightly to what they’ve created out of fear of letting go, or fear of who will be taking the reins, they would be doing a disservice to themselves and the organization's they represent by not starting to surrender control. 

Grooming the Next Generation    

Employees in the Gen X cohort, though small in number, are approaching their peak business acumen stage. They are solid thinkers and implementers who, with a bit of mentoring, can capably lead any organization to its best years ever. More than likely they’ve been working in the same industry for more than a decade. 

Boomers should start using Gen X employees as thought-partners. By including their deep knowledge and perspective in more strategic initiatives, they’ll see the bigger picture of your organization’s mission. More importantly, it will help them make the transition from manager to leader with ease.     

From a practical standpoint, much like a soon-to-retire professional athlete, leaders must shift from being center stage to being the first point of mentorship. By becoming sources of guidance and support, Baby Boomers can gain an understanding of the individuals that represent their companies, rather than viewing them more stereotypically as an overall generation.  

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The value of listening is a key skill needed before knowledge and experience can be handed down. Find out what each Gen X employee’s long-term life goals are, as well as what drives them. Help them achieve their career goals and the work-life balance they need in their stage of development. 

Listening to Millennials 

Baby Boomers should take advantage of listening to the Millennials’ stories. Give the younger generation of leaders an opportunity to share who they are. Sure, they are much younger, but you’d be surprised by what drives them. Many Millennials are in a position to become leaders because of personal experiences that have helped them learn and grow. Baby Boomers may be surprised to learn that they have more in common with a Millennial generation than they once thought.  

Millennials have all the technological savvy and tools at their disposal. Business models are shifting, and Millennials know how to steer them, and understand what to stay clear of. To get over the initial leadership hump, it’s up to this new nimble generation to not rest on their laurels. 

Millenials would be wise to take a page from the Baby Boomer playbook, and apply a solid work ethic to the creativity and technological prowess they already possess. Technology and education may have been handed to them, but successful leadership is something they’re going to have to achieve through learning, dedication, and work ethic. 

Millennials should take time away from their smartphones and digital conferences to seek and listen to the guidance Baby Boomers can provide. Baby Boomers have paved the path, the template of success is already laid out. By grasping the Baby Boomer’s foundations of success, they can then apply their Millennial viewpoints of business to the equation, blending the two into a “new age” strategy for continued success.    

To quote someone most Baby Boomers listened to in their teens, “The times they are a-changing…” And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

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