The Federal Coach: Gen X And The Long Leadership Wait

After 15 or more years on the job, many Gen-Xers are ready to make the jump from individual performer to leader. However, many aren’t seeing any leadership opportunities emerge, and they’re ready to jump to the private and nonprofit sectors for their leadership moment. Here are a few tips for senior leaders looking to retain and cultivate those Gen-Xers poised for their leadership moment.

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Avatar photo Bill Brantley

Speaking from the GenX viewpoint: I believe the best way to prove that you are ready for leadership is to serve as a leader in a volunteer or professional organization. Being a board officer helps you understand the practical aspects of leadership and rotating around various positions develops good management skills. It also demonstrates that you have a commitment to your profession and community while showcasing your initiative and energy. It’s also a good way to work out any shortcomings you have as a leader so that you are better prepared when you take on leadership responsibilities at work.

AJ Malik

Perhaps why Gen-Xers are not in line for leadership opportunities may be due to the intentional or unintentional short-sightedness, and personal, selfish agendas of Boomers, who have dominated management for the past two decades. Boomers, who lived through the previous “Knowledge is Power” era, and internalized its Machiavellian mantra, may simply refuse to share their knowledge nor to mentor and develop Gen-Xers for professional development or even eventual succession.

Michele Costanza

I read and hear a lot of anger sometimes coming from the GenYers directed at GenXers, telling us to pass the torch on to them, that we had our chance to lead and we messed everything up. Well, there seems to be confusion about age cohorts and generations. The younger generations seem to be confusing GenXers with Baby Boomers. How ironic is that? We GenXers really didn’t have much of a chance to mess things up, but we’ll get blamed for it anyway.

The GenYers seem to respond much better to the leadership style of their peers and Boomers, and they get along better with Baby Boomers than they do GenXers. You can read comments like that here on GovLoop.

My parents belonged to the Silent Generation, not Baby Boomers. I have found myself emulating the leadership style of the Greatest Generation (my grandparents) and the Silent Generation, more than the Boomers.

I mostly trailed the Boomers in the workplace. It was challenging at times to find a mentor who was prepared to mentor, especially if I may add, a mentor who was a woman, secure in her position at work. It was challenging to find women in positions of authority who were ready to mentor younger women. Plus, I learned that some Boomer women had returned to work later in their careers after raising families, and they weren’t exactly in the same leadership positions as their male peers. Age didn’t correlate with work experience.

I have really grown to appreciate more and more the sacrifices that Baby Boomer women made in the workplace, paving the way for my generation and those that followed. They were and are a generation capable of providing leadership. Just yesterday, I did a YouTube search and watched the DNC video tribute to Hillary Clinton. Regardless of your political affiliation, how could anyone not admire how much of a team player she has proven to be? The odd twist is that it seems to be GenXer women with different values and agendas from Boomers who are emerging as leaders in the political realm.

I have tried to go out of my way not to take out my own frustrations or limitations from the past on the younger generations. I don’t want to sound like those old people who tell younger people how much easier they have it, how we had to walk two feet in snow to get to school. GenYers have to face different challenges. The technology makes their lives easier. However, there are a host of social and economic and political factors that are making their lives more challenging.

Michele Costanza

@Tom: I noticed that no one posted a reply to your original article on WaPo. If the article was about Boomers or GenYers, you would have received pages and pages of responses. What does that tell you?