Doing Me Right, Boomer

In Spike Lee’s 1989 acclaimed movie “Do the Right Thing,” he places the characters at the center of making difficult decisions. It’s a classic drama—and a perfect way to continue our generational discussions!

During the hottest day of the summer, life forever changes at Sal’s pizzeria in Brooklyn. Two customers demand that Sal change his “Wall of Fame.” The confrontation heats up to racial slurs and physical threats. Violence erupts! Da Mayor, a street bum, encourages the mob to make good decisions.

However, Mookie (Spike Lee) opts to follow his emotions; it changed the dynamics of the situation. The 1980’s movie classic highlights the racial tension between two ethic groups. In the movie, Da Mayor provides Mookie with some advice: “Doctor, always do the right things.”  Given another chance, Mookie might have changed his actions. Unfortunately, too many managers won’t.

Are today’s managers willing to make the best decision so that future managers are primed for success, not defeat? It’s an interesting thought when you consider the possible generational volcano that may erupt at any time.

Several years ago, I read Daniel Kadlec’s column about the Baby Boomer transformation from being a “Me Generation” to a “We Generation.” Although I applauded Kadlec’s insight, I was hesitant to make this great leap of faith in the Baby Boomers yet. Let me say that this belief should not be conceived as ‘hating.’ I am Gen X as you might not know. I have used environmental scanning to witness the significant demographic shifts in our nation. Are Baby Boomers now ready to relinquish their stronghold of leadership?

We can’t be certain due to that fact that the storyline is incomplete. Let’s wait until the economy settles. With the rocky rollercoaster ride of the stock market, Baby Boomers don’t enjoy life as much because of the decrease in their disposable income. Some individuals have the extra burden of caring for parents and children. These realities of life keep Baby Boomers working well beyond their desires for retirement.

In the past, Baby Boomers have been early trend setters. A study from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College explains that the average retirement age in the U.S. is 63. Unfortunately, this retirement study reveals that many individuals will need to work longer so that they will have adequate retirement reserves.

Andy Hines, the director of Customer Projects at Social Technologies, predicts that Baby Boomers will refine the meaning of retirement and notes, “U.S. Baby Boomers are choosing post-work lifestyles that don’t resemble the stereotype of the quaint, restful senior citizen.” As you know, Baby Boomers are the top leaders of most organizations and will find it difficult to separate themselves from their positions of power and influence. Will they be willing to make the right decisions for their successors or themselves? 

Other observers believe that Baby Boomers will leave graciously and pass the baton to the next generation of leaders. I have my own doubts about the outcome.

If Baby Boomers extend their stay in organizations and maintain their leadership positions, what do you predict the response of leaders in waiting? How can organizations address this issue without inflaming Baby Boomer leadership and not losing future leaders who refuse to wait?

© 2010 by Daryl D. Green