Are we entering a leadership vacuum?

According to a recent Harvard Business Review article, more than 90% of the top 200 companies are currently run by baby boomers. When interviewed, the next generation of potential leaders of these companies, those of us from Generation X, felt like they were being bypassed for the younger generation (Generation Y). If this is in fact the case, we are in for a leadership vacuum the likes of which we have never seen. As boomers start to step down and retire, can we really expect those that are two generations removed to take over control of these companies? I am not convinced this will work. I am all for succession planning, generating new ideas and throwing people right in the middle of a tough situation to see how they handle it, but if the trend is to move towards Gen Y as the new leaders, what happens to all of the Gen Xers? Are they left in middle-to-senior management roles for eternity? How do companies think this will go over from a morale perspective? Not very well I would imagine. This does not seem to make a lot of sense from a practical perspective, so the driver must be financial. Maybe Generation Y commands lower salaries? Are they easier to mentor? Do they have inherently better leadership skills? I don't think there is data available to support these points on one side or the other. What I do know is that if companies ignore my generation as potential leaders of these organizations, there will be a leadership vacuum between boomers who are on the way out and Gen Yers who are too young to run a large company. There is something to be said for experience. I don't believe there is an ultimate profile for the CEO of a large company, but certainly one of the criteria should be experience. With experience comes the ability to inspire and lead others, to communicate effectively, to assess the strengths and weaknesses of an organization. Aren't these all characteritics we want for company leaders? There is no doubt, some people are born leaders, but without the experience, there will always be something lacking. A great leader surrounds himself with great people, but if Gen Xers are being overlooked for leadership positions, why would they want to be second in command to make someone else look good? Very few of us are that altruistic. I hope that companies realize the value that both Gen X and GenYers have to offer and that strategies are developed to leverage the best of both generations. In any case, the boomers will soon be leaving the leadership positions of these companies and someone will need to fill the void. I just hope it is the right people, and not those based on the lowest cost.


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