Inter-generational Leadership: What’s Myth and What’s Reality–and Does it Matter?
The literature on inter-generational differences is in hyper-drive. Think tanks spew out analyses; book authors produce their take on the situation; bloggers (like yours truly) convey their perspectives; and consultants beat the bushes for contracts to tell organizations how different the generations are and to instil anxiety (to secure more contracts).
I’ve written many posts on inter-generational leadership. Because this topic is a critical issue for society and economic growth, I’m again wading into the demographic swamp. In this post, we’ll look at some of the commonly held myths, and also bring into the conversation what’s called the Silent Generation (those 71 to 86 years of age). The past decade has witnessed the decimation of the retirement plans of millions of North American workers, with the result being an increasing number of them now having to work well into their sixties, and in some cases seventies.
Too much of the literature and news articles concentrate on Baby Boomers (born between 1948 and 1965), Gen X (born between 1966 and 1979), and Gen Y (born between 1980 and 1997). So in reality we’re talking about a four inter-generational span, and not just Boomers and Generations X and Y. But before I delve into this, let’s take a look at previous generations and how they perceived and functioned in the world. I’ll use my late dad as an illustration.
My dad emigrated to Canada from Glasgow in 1920 at the age of three. He arrived with his parents at the port of Halifax, Nova Scotia, but grew up in Winnipeg. After completing high school he worked as an apprentice machinist in the Canadian National Railway shops. When World War II broke out he wanted to sign up, but his dad told him that he first had to complete his journeyman papers.
In 1942 he joined the Canadian Navy. He was promoted to Chief Petty Officer, in effect running the engine rooms on two Canadian Corvettes. These were, by the way, nasty vessels on which to work, bouncing around like corks on the ocean. And by way of interest, it was Sir Winston Churchill who was influential in naming the later sports car the Corvette.
After the War, he completed a mechanical engineering degree at the University of Manitoba. After graduating, he continued working for CN, working his way up into a management position. Along the way, yours truly was born in 1955. What I remember of my dad while growing up in Montreal and Toronto was someone who travelled extensively, spending con