How to develop strategies that bridge the leadership gap with the generation gap

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The proverbial alarm has been ringing and going off for several years. There has been too little care and attention to deal with the impending disaster.

The leadership deficit that has been predicted over the past few years is upon us. And, it couldn’t have come at a worse time with the Covid-19 pandemic still ongoing, impacting each of the multiple generations differently in the labor market.

Many businesses are unable to keep pace with their need to fill the leadership positions created by retiring baby boomers and growing businesses, in some cases at a rapid pace. Their pipelines are not sufficient to quickly fill the growing number of leadership positions.

Companies that lack a focused strategy and a drive to close that gap could very well struggle to stay in business and maintain market share.

Related: 4 Ways Businesses Can Bridge the Generation Gap

The large number of baby boomers retiring over the past decade has only exacerbated the leadership gap. Many of them leave their leadership positions for their well-deserved leisure lifestyle.

In the third quarter of 2020, the number of baby boomers who retired increases by more than three million compared to the same quarter in 2019. This number will increase in 2021 and over the next few years. The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated massive retirements. Many baby boomers are generally dissatisfied with the way business is conducted with colleagues from other generations.

The alarm has been sounded.

It is widely accepted that there is an ongoing conflict between baby boomers and millennials when they communicate with each other and disagree on the work ethic of each generation.

Millennials currently represent the largest generation in the workplace. They will likely be the best source for leadership openings for many companies. Companies that can develop the best strategies to attract, develop and retain millennial leadership candidates will do their best to avoid the negative consequences of the leadership gap.

Time seems to be a finite resource in finding and engaging these potential millennial leaders. Companies that can act quickly and flexibly will win the race in closing the leadership gap.

That might not be enough for some companies to sound the alarm bells louder and beg for a call to action. There are trends both in leadership and in the diversity, equity and inclusion space that could well bring them to the brink.

Three of the critical leadership trends include:

A notable increase in the number of women in leadership positions at Fortune 500 companies.

  • Emphasis is placed on formalizing the functions of allies, mentors and sponsors to support emerging leaders.

  • Attention and investment in diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives are at an all-time high.

A set of diversity, equity and inclusion trends intersect with these leadership trends.

  • The next level of clarification of critical roles and responsibilities for diversity, equity and inclusion is critical to achieving any strategic objective.

  • The role of employee resource groups will become more pronounced and meaningful as corporate cultures transform to become more diverse, equitable and inclusive.

  • The need for skilled and capable leaders will continue to be at the forefront of many companies’ talent development strategies.

The case for closing the leadership gap intensifies when the trends are analyzed in more detail.

It seems like a great place to start in bridging the leadership gap is bridging the generational gap.

The beginning of any good working relationship is with introductions. When baby boomers and millennials simultaneously find themselves in one place and start a conversation about how to collectively close the leadership gap, the work needed to close it is underway.

Boomer leaders can take the initiative to introduce millennials to some proven tools that will guide them in their collective work to close the leadership gap.

Some best practices in career development include:

  1. During meetings, baby boomers might ask for more and say less. Using the power of questions and active listening can go a long way toward finding productive common ground.

  2. Bringing the succession plan template to meetings will provide the template to ensure nothing is missed when discussing the plan for the future.

  3. Following the career development plan will increase the chances of developing a leader’s unique leadership style.

Bridging the leadership gap with intention, focus, and attention will lead to a more structured leadership development framework. Additionally, it will support the development of the skills and competencies needed to be an effective leader.

Additionally, corporate culture will be positively impacted when the leadership gap is filled, in part, by internal candidates.

Related: Millennials Can Bridge the Generation Gap With Baby Boomers

Finally, emerging leaders will have the opportunity to capitalize on the introduction of change while transforming their businesses. Increased empowerment is just one strategy among many that promotes engagement, effectiveness and efficiency.

Companies that pursue a strategy focused on closing the leadership gap will reap the benefits of having more capable and skilled leaders in develop more diverse, equitable and inclusive workplaces.

This approach will give companies a strong competitive advantage when recruiting and retaining top talent, as well as finding and serving their customers.

The alarm is ringing, it’s time to act.

Related: Closing the Learning Gap Can Solve the Skills Gap

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