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
- "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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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