The coming leadership shift

by Chuck Hyde ([email protected]) 780 views 

Come back in time with me to 2005-2007. A dominant conversation among company executives was the pending exodus of the Baby Boomer generation. After all, the leading edge of the most populous generation (76 million) was entering their early 60s. The forecasted dilemma was the leadership void this would create and the inevitability of leadership roles being filled by (relatively) early career professionals.

The Great Recession put a temporary stay on that issue as many Boomers contemplating retirement, especially early retirement, decided to stick around for a while. Some 15 years later, even the youngest Boomers are now in serious retirement consideration creating an increase of succession conversations in companies big and small.

Here’s what didn’t happen in that window of time. No more Gen Xers showed up at work. There were still only 46 million of us to choose from. But wait. Gen Y is providing us an option as they out-boomed the Boomers at 80 million. For those that fret about the youngsters infiltrating our workplaces, it’s time we realize we have Gen Ys in their early 40s. What’s now coming out of our four-year institutions is Gen Z (population 59 million).

In his most recent book, “A New Kind of Diversity,” Dr. Tim Elmore cites that by 2025, 70% of the workforce will be Gen Y and Gen Z. How could that be? It’s simply a function of time and mathematics.

That stat alone could cause some to lose some sleep on principle. If we explore the potential implications for our organizations, consider two others. In the 2023 State of Talent Optimization Report, 36% of companies believe they have the right executive team to execute their business strategy. From the same report, 64% of HR executives cite the inability to find qualified candidates as their biggest challenge in recruiting. Could birthdates be linked to the right capacity to lead in our companies?

Chuck Hyde

In a recent coaching call, one senior executive described his dilemma of assigning projects to a team with an inexperienced bench, unprepared to take on a certain level of complexity, resulting in a significant bottleneck. A second identified pain point was how much time is spent correcting work assigned to less experienced team members. It’s not that they aren’t trying but more so learning on the job. I’d argue that, to some degree, this is something we’ve always had to manage. Still, the vibration this is causing by the sheer volume of it is what’s creating stress for companies across the board.

I found it interesting that Elmore cites Miami University researcher Megan Gerhardt that only 8% of companies recognize different generations as a diversity category. He also cites an ASTD study that 20% of companies have a program or strategy for intergenerational relationships.

It would be an easy default for my generation to assume the position of either victim or casualty in this conversation. Still, that would be us abdicating the responsibility we have to lead, albeit from a minority position (numbers-wise). Here’s what I’m telling my clients:

Recognize the environment. The math doesn’t lie. As John Adams famously wrote, “Facts are stubborn things.”

Become a teacher of the business. Find ways to accelerate the exposure and access to complexity and scale for those who haven’t been in the deep end of the pool yet.

Tap into the skills the younger generations bring to the table. Elmore’s book outlines several things that can allow companies to tap into the best, unique abilities that each generation brings.

Leaders, you have a choice. Just remember, this is one of those things that doesn’t get better with age.

Chuck Hyde is the founder of C3 Advisors, a firm focused on executive development and talent optimization. He can be reached at The opinions expressed are those of the author.