Boomers, Millennials, & Legitimacy

By Tim Jones   |  

January 02, 2017   |  

Culture   |  

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Boomers, Millennials, & Legitimacy

The idea of legitimacy is such a silent killer in leadership. Legitimacy issues somehow are always linked to equity. Think about the transfer that’s taking place in America’s workforce right now. Millennials/ young professionals will be almost 50% of the workforce in 2020, on the flip side everyday for the next 20 years, a Baby Boomer will turn 65. This transfer of power has caused generational divides everywhere where an experienced professional is leading and a young professional is knocking at the door of a leadership position. This brings to surface the legitimacy issues that each side has with one another. Millennials are saying “move out the way Boomers, you’re old and I’m ready to lead” and Boomers are saying “sit down and pay your dues—you ain’t ready yet”. Neither side sees the value in each other and it creates legitimacy issues which creates a stalemate. Stalemates aren’t good in leadership; they waste time, they delay success, and they cost money because nothing is getting done.

“True leadership begins, not with leaders imposing their will but with leaders understanding that true authority and obedience comes from the expression of legitimacy.” -Malcolm Gladwell

I think Malcolm Gladwell has it right; imposing our will won’t lead people to be better followers or better behavior. As leaders we have to allow others to receive the credit and assume authority–it’s actually what attracts leaders to your team these days. None of this can be done until we see the value the people we lead add to our lives and our organizations. This is more of a perspective issue, more than a power struggle. The best places to work or lead tend to be those places where people feel like they are treated with respect, heard, and where they feel they are valued in the eyes of their colleagues and bosses.

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