Healthy Leaders


Defining The New Role of the Baby-Boomer Leader

Phil WoodPhil Wood

Not trying to be unkind to the second Patriarch and referring more to the greatness of his next of kin, Chuck Swindoll once described Isaac as a valley between two mountain peaks. Sandwiched between Abraham and Jacob, Isaac was a little slower to launch. He later created sibling havoc between his twin boys, which also sucked their mother into the conflict through a premature and dramatic prediction of his soon demise.

Baby-boomers might be a similar valley.

Sandwiched between what has come to be known as The Greatest Generation, which is now nearly extinct, and the Millennials, the largest generation in America’s history, Baby-Boomers are like the bridge that connects two impressive landmasses.

Raised by the mentally tough WWII and Depression-era parents, Boomers were taught to patiently wait for their turn at bat. They did not, however, do the best job of transmitting some of the same inherited values to the generation of Millennials whom they raised. Millennials are conditioned to wait for little.

The current generation of Boomer leaders is like a group of people standing outside in line all day for their driver’s license at the Department of Motor Vehicles, only to be told in the afternoon that everyone not already in the building has to leave. You wait in line, thinking those are the rules, only to find out that others don’t possess the same version of the rulebook.

Boomers were reared by the strong will of their parents, but shrank back in intimidation from the growing shadow of their own brood. Sadly, they are not handing their children the same opportunities for growth and optimism they were bequeathed. This generation has become more like a bump in the road. Maybe even a valley. And many organizations are recognizing it is time, even though the job seems undone, to prepare to hand the reins of leadership over to the emerging generation of Millennials.

How can this transition be the smoothest?

1. Stay close and supportive. Whether you are in charge or not, you can still share the tribal knowledge, resources, and connections that you have accumulated. More than ever, the Millennials need your support as they move into uncharted territory.

2. Help them stand on your shoulders. Every father knows the burning and pinching sensation in their neck and shoulders from a little one perched too long. While it can be painful, making it easy for the next generation to stand on your shoulders beats making them get lost in the crowd. When you see someone with potential, give them paths to advance and a higher vision.

3. Share the spotlight or even step away from it. At age 50, Old Testament priests were to retire from their duties and, if anything, transition into assistants to the younger priests (Numbers 8:25). The sweet spot of Levitical service was 25 to 50 years-of-age. Currently, all Boomers are over 50 and Millennials, at 30-something and under, are in the dead center of that zone. Forward-thinking leaders are beginning to switch who is in front of the camera.

Isaac may not have taken first or even second place in the patriarch race, but he was nonetheless an important link. The chain would not have continued without him.

And it might be a sobering reminder for some, if Baby-Boomer leaders hold the baton of leadership too tightly or too long, the whole team will fall behind.

This article originally appeared here.

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Phil Wood