Thursday, May 6, 2010

Boomers Can't Let Go

Those of you who were following my discussion with Tammy Erickson about the leadership potential of Generation X may have missed Tammy's last comment, which she posted not here on The Hourglass Blog, but in the Harvard Business Review Answer Exchange.

Go here to review the discussion on Hourglass, here to see our exchange on HBR. Tammy's last comment included this thought:

Interestingly, I find that generations tend to return to the themes of their formative teen years when they hit midlife (or the infamous "midlife crisis"). For example, Traditionalists, who were shaped by the consumer-intense, post-war '50s, dreamed of buying red sports cars at mid-life. Boomers, in contrast, often want to tap into the idealistic "change the world" views that shaped their teen years.

Reminds me of this post I recently saw on Association Jam, quoting Matt Thornhill of the Boomer Project.

Our analyses of monthly consumer surveys by BIGresearch suggest that Boomers are turning their backs on consumerism. They are rediscovering the traditional values of thrift and frugality, which they see as consistent with emerging "green" values of conservation and recycling.

Now, last I checked, Boomers weren't at mid-life, but that's okay, because Thornhill's not saying that they are rejecting consumerism out of any pining for the idealism of their youth, but out of necessity because so many of them have simply not saved enough for a comfortable retirement.

So that's two reasons why younger generations should expect to see Boomers in nonprofit leadership positions for some time to come. If they're not moving over from the for-profit sector to realize the world-changing dreams of their youth, their hanging on to their paychecks for as long as they can because they can't afford to retire.


Justmyviews said...

Will Boomers who hang on to their paychecks go through the alleged transition to their "third act", "third age", from valuing achievement and income to valuing altruism, generosity, wisdom, etc.

Eric Lanke said...

I think many of them will, Justmyviews, and that the nonprofit sector will be the vehicle to help them realize it. Keep earning an income, but emphasis giving back to the community and changing the world for the better. What do you think?

Justmyviews said...

There is too little money in non-profit positions unless we're talking exec director, fund raising, grant writers in larger organizations. Non-profits are largely looking for volunteers. Having said that, there are part time non-profit jobs but they'll pay I'm guessing $5-15K/year. But even in part time positions, non-profits look for experience in these areas. So non-profit jobs are/will be hard to get for people who have not been in this sector. I see a very large number of boomers, 50%+?, struggling to find any job while wanting meaning. They'll be torn between financial stability and meaning in their lives. A large number of the market niches identified by gurus such as travel, fashion (looking good at their age), life-long learning, comfort & leisure aren't going to be anywhere near as attractive as they are portrayed today. Will there be a significant set of significant market niches for 50+ yrs old boomers other than wellness, financial security (jobs being key)? I'm no longer sure that such is the case.

Eric Lanke said...

I think I am talking about executive director positions in non-profits and, more specifically, associations. Lots would be willing to hire an experienced leader from the for-profit sector to help them take a more entrepreneurial approach to their mission and programs. I don't think there will be enough positions for every Boomer, but enough Boomers will move into them to keep a lot of qualified Xers out of them.

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