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Why baby boomers & Millennials are creating a leadership vacuum

Shawna Ohm

There’s a leadership vacuum looming over American companies and most of them aren’t prepared.

Baby boomers are set to retire in droves – 10,000 turn 65 each day and will continue to do so for the next 15 years, according to Pew. That wouldn’t be a problem if there were qualified candidates to succeed them in the leadership roles they inhabit across American companies. But there aren’t. And not only that, future generations are just not interested in ascending to the C-suite.

To be more specific, just 11% of people worldwide want to be executives. Of that 11%, most high-level aspirants are male (64%). If you look specifically at Millennials, just 29% of 20-somethings aspire to a corner office.

All of this is according to a new study by talent management company Saba and WorkplaceTrends.com. Dan Schawbel, founder of the latter, says that the lack of desire to lead is partly the fault of companies themselves. “Companies are falling short,” he said. “Companies are intent on having annual performance reviews when workers want more regular feedback, especially young people and Millennials.”

The survey showed slightly more than half of companies report conducting annual reviews of employees. Employees, meanwhile, would prefer to have more frequent, customized feedback from their superiors. Even when companies provide additional training, it tends to be online based.

No wonder companies are finding it so hard to find leaders. Nearly half (46%), of the companies surveyed reported “leadership” was the hardest skill to find in an employee. An even smaller number of employees (36%) said leadership was a strength found in their organization. An even smaller number (15%) said they felt the training they were receiving helped to prepare them for leadership.









According to Schawbel, employees should start treating their employees the way they treat their customers. “Think of Amazon. You think of all these personalization sites where they’re talking to you, they’re recommending things to you,” he said. “People, individuals need that type of help now. And companies need to make that investment for them.”

Schawbel recommends mentorship programs where superiors take a personalized interest in their employees. “Someone really investing in you and what you have to offer,” he said. This not only boosts employee retention, but helps create the type of leadership skills companies are looking for. He points to Philips (PHG.AS), where he consults, and Pepsi (PEP) as examples of companies that are doing this well.