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The Boomer Bulletin - 2013
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The New Language of a Leader

Posted By Sandra Wiley, Thursday, September 12, 2013

As a leader, it is important to understand generational differences. However, we need to be careful not to make gross generalizations about individuals based on their age. When we do this, we elevate age over an individual’s more important attributes.  In this article, I’d like to encourage us to develop a new language as we discuss current and future leaders.

Below are a few examples of statements I’ve heard over the year’s working in our industry:

  • "We need to move these baby boomers out of the firm.”
  • "We need to contain the young people; they just don’t have the experience to know what they are talking about.”
  • "These over 50’s just don’t understand the model of the firm of the future.”
  • "All of the Gen X and Gen Y people are out of touch with reality.  They want all the money and don’t want to put in the work."
  • "Anyone in the older generation is a workaholic and they don’t really care about anything except their job, they have no life!”
  • "The younger worker has lots of education but no work ethic – they are just a bunch of kids that have an entitlement mentality."

If you think that the statements above are made up, you are incorrect.  I have heard every statement as I’ve worked with clients or attended conferences throughout the year.  Although generalizations can have a thread of truth, the majority of talented people I meet, every statement above is unequivocally wrong.  I believe that individuals can be successful at any age.  I would like to challenge anyone reading this article to get rid of a few words in your everyday language:

  • Young, Gen X, Gen Y 
  • Old, Senior, Baby Boomer

There are plenty of additional age-related terms that you could add, but we need to stop looking at people simply by their ages and start looking at the attributes that really count.  I think we should look for the following in our team, future and current leaders:   

  1. A Passion to Learn:  Learning is far more than CPE.  People in our profession have to get CPE, but the truly amazing people, and the ones you want to surround yourself with, are those that are self-learners.  They read, absorb new ideas, talk to interesting people and share the things they learn with others around them.  
  2. Ability to Develop Relationships:  Watch the people in your sphere of influence.  Those that are able to connect with others, either one-on-one or in a group, are extremely valuable.  Most people who enter our profession do so because they believe it is a numbers game.  The reality is that once you build knowledge in the numbers, the ability to build relationships with clients, your team and influencers in your community can win the game for your firm.   
  3. An Innate Desire to Stay Ahead of the Trends:  Leaders love to explore the "new and shiny” things.  They might not jump on every idea that comes along, but they have a hunger to explore and identify the ideas that will keep them ahead of their competitors and will bring the highest value to their clients.
  4. A Fearless Decision Maker:  No matter what level a person is at in the firm, they have a certain level of ability to make decisions.  It might be as simple as when they start a project or what community event to attend to best develop a larger personal network. They need to be independent and fearless about their decisions.  
  5. They Know and Use Their Strengths:  It is widely known that anyone who really knows themselves well, and uses their natural strengths to their advantage, will progress faster and be happier in their life.  The sooner you quit trying to change yourself, the sooner you will grow in your career.  
  6. They Know and Use Their Teams Strengths:  The other side of identifying and using your own strengths is that you can then surround yourself with team members – both at home and work – that will support and strengthen you because they have strengths that compliment yours.  
  7. A Strong Work Ethic:  Don’t confuse work ethic with number of hours.  Work ethic means that you do what you say you will do.  You complete the tasks that are assigned to you in a timely manner.  You always look for the next item to insure that you and your firm are growing and becoming better.  
  8. Teaching and Mentoring Others:  A level 5 leader is one that is more interested in helping others than helping themselves.  You are not a level 5 from the beginning of your career, but one attribute that all levels can aspire to have is one of teaching and mentoring others.  This is about caring and concern toward your peers.
Take note that you should look for all of these traits as you hire, promote and build your firm.  They have absolutely nothing to do with age. They have everything to do with building a team that is full of amazing individuals that will make a superb firm! 

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