11 November 2009
Geeks and Geezers
Interviews with men and women who are leaders of both large and small companies demonstrated that the similarities between these apparently disparate groups (Gen X and Gen Y) offer significant insight into the qualities of leadership that transcend generational differences. Bennis and Thomas discovery is that successful leaders among both geeks and geezers possess the quality of “neoteny,” a certain youthful inquisitiveness and enjoy life that makes each of them want to learn constantly and explore new possibilities both in their business and personal lives. Leaders from both generations have “adaptive capacity,” the ability to adjust their course when difficulties and challenges were presented. The ability to be adaptive was frequently put to the test early in these leaders’ careers, when each went through some kind of defining experience in their careers that tested their ability to overcome obstacles. There are four stages of adaptability: Hardiness, which is boldness and a capability to learn in all circumstances, including failures, and to let go of old ways of doing things. First-class noticers who are being remarkably open to seeing and hearing new things. Egoless learners who are not being invested in who you are in such a way that you can’t learn something else. And Transcending limits which is learning new things and new ways of doing things that take you to new heights. The authors call this experience the “crucible” in which values are tested and people learn not merely to persevere but also to pursue their goals in spite of seemingly insurmountable challenges. Crucibles are "intense, transformational experiences" from which a leader changes dramatically and emerges much wiser. Crucibles are "often opportunities," says Bennis. The key distinction between crucibles is not whether they are considered negative or positive but whether the leader "Both types of crucibles...