Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Are Gen Xers the Prince Charles of Association Leaders?

Prince Charles (left) is in waiting for the Queen Mum while Prince William looks on
For decades, the 80 million Boomers (those born from the mid 1940s to the early 1960s) have been the core of association leadership (both staff and volunteers).

For the last decade, most authors have been focusing on the huge incoming Generation Y, the 77 million millenials (those born in the 1980s and 1990s).

Stuck in the middle are the 50 million Gen Xers (those born in the 1960s and 1970s).

The plight of the Gen Xers is similar to that of Britain’s Prince Charles who is caught in the middle between his aging mother, Queen Elizabeth, and Prince William, his popular son and future King.

Boomers Holding On

I thought about this the other day as I read that the 2010 Census showed the share of workers 65 or older in the labor force rose to 16%, up from 12% in 1990.

Over the past few years, I’ve watched the frustration of Gen X staffers – like Prince Charles – waiting for a promotion but being blocked by Boomers who like Queen Elizabeth remain in their job longer than expected.

As you look at many associations, you find the same situation. Younger members blocked from leadership positions because the Boomers won’t step down.

Leadership Turnover

Aging Boomers staying in their positions as CEOs, executive staff and volunteer board members. While not intentional, this blocks Gen Xers from moving up in the organization.

We can and should expect and prepare for a leadership turnover.

While fishing in Ontario, I’ve learned that the spring brings a “turnover”  when the warm water at the bottom rises and the colder water at the top drops to the bottom.

At some point, our associations will need a leadership turnover ... that point at which Xers and Millenials will be the dominant age groups on boards and in key staff positions.

Meanwhile, Boomer board members and Boomer association professionals need to ensure that their organizations are preparing for change so their younger members don’t disengage.

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