Tuesday, July 20, 2010

How can you follow the leader if you don't know who it is?

Joao Ferreira, managing editor for ZweigWhite's four newsletters, says there are leadership issues at a firm near you:

A chorus of worries about who will lead the design firm of the future has increased in volume over the last few months of covering this industry. At the The Zweig Letter Hot Firm Conference last October, a panel discussion discovered that many aging owners don’t even have a leadership succession plan in place (read leadership, not ownership, which are not the same thing).

Now, at the SMPS Build Business conference in Boston, A/E guru Scott Braley tells us kind of the same story. Baby boomers, he says, haven’t invested enough on nurturing their replacements. The Gen X demographic isn’t as aggressive as the boomer generation, either, and this may create a leadership gap. Gen Ys will likely take advantage.

OK, it’s slightly confusing, but the reality in that boomers will become extinct in leadership roles in the next 10 years, and someone has to step up to the plate. Despite concerns that younger generations are more interested in flexible work hours and not necessarily in leading, some believe that we’ll be just fine. ZweigWhite founder Mark Zweig said as much during the Hot Firm event last year.

Now comes this from ZweigWhite principal John Soter: “I’m a boomer, and I think we forget that we were one end of the original ‘generation gap’. From Elvis and the Beatles to Mad magazine to sit-ins and Woodstock, we were written off as spoiled and lacking ‘work ethic.’ Well, I guess we showed them! I subscribe to the view that, given the opportunity and direction, Gen X and Y will prove boomers’ view of them completely wrong as they reinvent firms for the future, just like we did to those we followed.”

The problem, Braley argued is that boomers relished being thrown in with the lions and took charge; Gen Xers, on the other hand, don’t speak up.

So, how do you spot the next leaders and nurture them? Boomers, go get them, and Gen X and Y, speak up!

Any thoughts out from the trenches?

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