How will Gen-Xers Lead Associations?

I’m part of the ASAE’s Writer’s Pool, and we periodically get an email with some questions related to upcoming Associations Now articles. I spotted this one, and I thought this would make a great discussion here on the blog.

How will Gen-Xers lead associations? Members of Generation X (those born between 1966 and 1980) make up a notably small group sandwiched between two very large ones. With many experienced Boomers holding fast to their jobs and Gen Yers taking leadership roles in departments that didn’t exist five years ago, how have Gen Xers found ways to take charge at their associations, and what are their prospects for the future?

What do you think? Are you a GenXer with an experience to relate? For me personally, I was definitely bitten by the bug of entrepreneurship that is not uncommon for my generation, and worked very hard to build the “personal brand” I needed to take the plunge and jump ship to the “dark side” of consulting after years of working in associations. I needed to create something. I needed to be able to think deeply about things. I needed to be able to learn from others in a way that wasn’t being provided “from the inside”. I needed to be able to push the needle (and the envelope). I needed to be able to experiment with ideas and with work. I needed to write. I did try all of these things in many small ways while I was working for an association, but in the end, I was dying inside. I thought I had much, much more to give and while I took a huge risk by leaving all the security of a regular paycheck behind, I have not looked back for one second.

But that doesn’t answer ASAE’s question, does it! What about you? Have you “found ways to take charge” – inside your association? What does your future look like? Please share in the comments!

{ 25 comments }

maddiegrant April 4, 2010 at 1:31 pm

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lisaduong9 April 4, 2010 at 1:58 pm

RT @maddiegrant: Socialfishing:: How will Gen-Xers Lead Associations? http://bit.ly/9MrKQy

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SocialFishFood April 4, 2010 at 7:23 pm

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maddiegrant April 4, 2010 at 7:23 pm

SocialFishing: How will Gen-Xers Lead Associations? http://bit.ly/9RFCXf

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textpack April 5, 2010 at 9:47 am

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Lisa Junker April 5, 2010 at 6:36 am

Thanks so much for raising this question on your blog, Maddie! (And for being a part of the writer’s pool.) I’m really interested to see what your readers have to say.

ColleenAFlynn April 5, 2010 at 1:56 pm

RT @SocialFishFood How will Gen-Xers Lead Associations? http://bit.ly/9vEvk5

Shelly Alcorn, CAE April 5, 2010 at 2:28 pm

Maddie -

I am moving more and more toward the conclusion that Gen X needs to go outside and work our way back in. Gen X leaders within an organization, at the top or not, are simply outnumbered. I think our sheer scarcity dictates a path to evangelize from without and affect change across multiple institutions instead of working from within, one organization at a time.

Loners, unite! LOL

Shelly

shellyalcorn April 5, 2010 at 6:29 pm

RT @MemberClicks How will Gen-Xers lead associations? (by @maddiegrant) http://ow.ly/1uJFQ

Maddie Grant April 6, 2010 at 6:29 pm

“Gen-X “nomads” are much more pragmatic – we’re not joiners, and we don’t follow movements. Is the membership model dying? I don’t really know, but if it does die, I think it will be Gen-X that kills it – not the economy or social media, both of which are usually held at fault.”

Killer quote from Elizabeth Engel in this post – http://thx4playing.blogspot.com/2010/04/generations-leadership-and-change.html – which is not a direct response to the questions posed here but basically addresses it head on. Go check it out!

Jamie Notter April 7, 2010 at 12:50 pm

Jeff Gordinier, author of the best-titled book ever: X Saves the World: How Generation X Got the Shaft but Can Still Keep Everything from Sucking, once said something like: “Generation X likes to get things done…they just don’t need to throw a parade about it.” I think if we’re waiting for that moment when Gen X gets to be in charge (and recognized as such), we will be waiting forever. According to Strauss and Howe, we are a “recessive” generation (it alternates, so yes, Boomers AND Millennials are “dominant” in addition to each outnumbering us hugely). Gen X will do amazing things, and people won’t think that we’re the ones doing it. Personally, I’m okay with that and I’m just going to stay on my path. People often forget that many of the great leaders of the Baby Boomer experience in the 60s (like Martin Luther King Jr.) were, in fact, members of the silent Generation, another “recessive” generation.

But Millennials are not just like Boomers, even though there are some surface similarities. They both are more group focused than individual (when compared to Xers), but Millennials are much more decentralized, something that Xers will like. Xers will probably be very good at bridging. We’ve been on the periphery (by choice), but we now have the years in service to get access to the center. The job of the middle is to get out of the way and connect the top and bottom directly. That’s probably a leadership role that Gen X will embrace.

Eric Lanke April 19, 2010 at 1:28 pm

As usual, I agree with Jamie, and, as usual, Jamie beat me to the punch. Shows what being disconnected for a week’s vacation will do. One additional thing I’ll add is that I think GenX’s bridging ability will go beyond just the generational divides in our society. Progress often isn’t made until ideological divides are bridged as well. GenXers were incubated at a time when keeping your options open and going with the practical over the ideological had real advantages. That time may be coming around again, and this uniquely GenX trait may be more relevant than ever.

hourglassblog April 19, 2010 at 5:30 pm

Both Hourglass bloggers weigh in @SocialFishFood on How will Gen-Xers Lead Associations? http://bit.ly/9vEvk5

maddiegrant April 19, 2010 at 6:30 pm

RT @hourglassblog Both Hourglass bloggers weigh in @SocialFishFood on How will Gen-Xers Lead Associations? http://bit.ly/9vEvk5

Elizabeth Engel April 19, 2010 at 2:25 pm

@Jamie – don’t know if this is “typical” X or not, but I don’t really care about credit – I just want to get stuff done. As long as I can do amazing things, I don’t really care who people think is the one doing it.

jamienotter April 19, 2010 at 6:33 pm

RT @maddiegrant: RT @hourglassblog Both Hourglass bloggers weigh in @SocialFishFood on How will Gen-Xers Lead Assns? http://bit.ly/9vEvk5

Lindy Dreyer April 20, 2010 at 10:27 am

Having just finished Charlene Li’s new book, Open Leadership, I thought of this post and the Xer conundrum. We’re an independent generation, am I right? And yet perhaps the most important key to leadership styles that work in today’s communication environment is collaboration. Jamie – we got to get you a copy of that book so you can weigh in from the generation perspective…

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