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The Boomer Leader's Responsibility: Mentoring Generation X and Y

Now is the time to take advantage of the significant level of knowledge and expertise housed within the boomer demographic group. The leader ranks, today, are dominated by members of this group and offer the perfect solution to the skills gap problem predicted to be business' primary challenge by the end of this decade. This skills gap will shape the majority of positions, functions, lines of business, and organization levels so today's leaders' expertise must be transferred to the next generation of leaders and it needs to start happening now. Boomer leaders need to step up and start developing the potential Generation X and Generation Y leaders.

Leaders have a responsibility to grow their organization. Organizations are dynamic by nature, comprised of individuals, they are living organisms and without pursuit of growth, destined to shrink and die. Good leaders understand this dynamic and take steps, on a daily basis, to ensure their organization is growing by creating an environment where individuals develop and grow. Unless individuals grow, the organization can not. Recognizing their responsibility to grow the organization means leaders recognize their responsibility to grow their people. And they understand that the next generation of leaders must understand this as well.

Making the tools, processes and systems available for leadership growth are all important to creating the next generation of leaders but, more importantly, potential leaders need individual support and coaching from someone with similar strengths and passion who has a clear vision of the future. This is the boomer leader's role.

Leaders have an overarching vision for their organization and a passion for bringing their vision to life. Leadership is a journey, a journey where those on it continue to face obstacles and barriers to success. But the effective leader stays focused on the vision, the defining purpose of her tenure as the leader. Mentoring potential leaders should be an integral part of the plan to achieve the vision. Without succession planning at the senior level of the organization, realization of the vision will be minimal at best. Reaching out to other strong members of the organization provides the leader with the team she needs to successful complete the journey. Being a passionate, visible, driver of the vision, and sharing that passion enthusiastically with others creates an environment of infection and inclusion where those with potential leadership qualities work diligently to succeed their predecessor.

Leaders participate in reflective talkback and seek feedback from peers, colleagues and direct reports on goals created and actions taken. Leaders encourage others to challenge their thinking and their actions. They seek out someone to tell them when they are in error, someone who will tell them the truth. This is one of the most difficult challenges for the leader mentor - passing on this skill, this awareness, this passion for the truth. Leaders who surround themselves with those who always support and agree with their thoughts and actions, where people allow leaders to make mistakes even when they themselves know better, is a business tragedy.

The better leader is the one who sees value in dissent, who encourages others to challenge them because they understand the value of being inclusive and encouraging others to participate in decisions being made. The boomer leader who is able to transfer this understanding to Generation X and Y members of their organization will be creating a future leadership group capable of tackling any obstacles that come their way. These future leaders will have surrounded themselves with people who can help and support them, as well as challenge them, during both difficult and easy times.

Leaders accept accountability for results and are committed to excellence. Successful leaders want others to be successful. They understand their own strengths and weaknesses and encourage others to conduct self-analysis in order to grow. And, they have taken charge of their own learning throughout their entire working career. Personal growth and development is dependent upon an individual's desire to learn and to find ways to access learning opportunities. The boomer leader mentor encourages their protege to take advantage of every opportunity to learn. They view learning as an investment in the future and know excellence can only be achieved through continuously challenging the status quo, but challenging it with knowledge.

Financial results are critical to growing the organization and ensuring its success. However, sustainability is reliant on the longer term more comprehensive view of results. The boomer leader takes a balanced approach to business growth by creating an environment where integrity, trust and competence are valued.

To inspire others to grow and change, every boomer leader should be asking themselves the following questions:

What skills do the next generation of leaders need to continually drive organization growth?

What experiences should they have to help them develop their leadership style?

What specific knowledge do they need to acquire to fully understand the business, the environment in which it thrives and, the opportunities they should pursue to further develop the business?

A good mentor knows their role is to guide and coach, to help the potential leader move successfully forward in their development. Coaching effectively starts with helping them to prioritize their needs and build a timeline to acquire the competencies necessary to lead their organization in future.

Most leaders struggle daily with a myriad of challenges so they may lose sight of their responsibility for developing their people, of investing for the longer term in the growth of the organization through growth of the next group of leaders. Will boomer leaders ensure the next generation of leaders is trained and ready to take over when they retire?