Over the last decade, we Boomers have confused yelling for leadership. We've replaced productive discourse with terminal disrespect. We've mistaken standing-on-our-soap-box constipation... for inspiration.
While holding on to what we hold dear, we've misinterpreted compromise for surrender. While blaming others for everything wrong, we've forgotten to take responsibility for finding a solution.
We've decided that rhetoric from talking heads and politicians is an acceptable form of communication... while never holding the orators accountable. We have decided that being photogenic, charming and displaying a quick wit are acceptable facsimiles for leadership, resolve and results.
We've confused supporting one political party over another as patriotism... yet only truly come together as a nation when brutally attacked (think 9-11) from outside our borders.
We Boomers (and perhaps Gen X who follows us) have chosen our divisive, unproductive path. At this point, perhaps we can only hope Gen Y (and the generations that follow them) learns from our dreadful demonstration... and lives up to their potential to positively change the world.
Of course, there are obvious dangers with stereotyping millions into a one-person compilation; thousands of shades of gray exist in every black-and-white generational myth; no one person walks on water, let alone an entire generation.
That includes us Boomers. We got off to a great start; watching men step foot on the moon made us believe anything was possible. The same year we had Woodstock and subsequently ushered in values of personal freedom, independent thought, equality and tolerance. We even had a Coke commercial motivating us to change the world.
At one point, we were just determined enough to think that we could do anything. Just ask Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Richard Branson or Tim Berners-Lee (often credited for inventing the world wide web -- perhaps Boomer's greatest contribution to society).
At a time when the world needs us most, however, we're accomplishing nothing. We're leading no one.
So why is our next-best hope found in the youngest generation of adults... our children, or grandchildren?
- Gen Y is praised for their abilities to innovate, for their acceptance of diversity and their team approach to solving problems. We need that, now.
- Despite chronic over-parenting from Boomers and Gen X, members of Gen Y are known for their perseverance, passion, with making decisions based on what is globally right and for working together toward achievement of common goals. At present, exhibition of those character traits would be beyond refreshing.
- Gen Y is known for sharing best practices, self-learning and continuous personal growth. They are unafraid to blog, brainstorm, talk and text about what works... and what doesn't... greatly decreasing the collective human learning curve - and becoming globally competitive as a result. In our economic condition, those are high-demand skills.
- Seemingly the greatest generation at volunteerism we've ever known, Gen Y doesn't wait until they become financially successful to pay-it-forward, serve those less-fortunate, and mentor. Among Gen Y, social good is organic -- and real-time.
- Gen Y doesn't understand, nor sympathize with, the old-boy standards and unwritten rules that hold us Boomers back. Most have never known a household where gender was a barrier to success. Race, nationality and religion are not points of contention, but are celebrated as welcome diversity. Multicultural collaboration -- virtual and global -- is expected.
- The world economy has been bad for so long, many members of Gen Y haven't personally experienced the "old economy" -- and aren't burdened with bitterness over a pay-cut, a downsize or a job that was outsourced. They know only the workplace reality specific to them... and have nowhere to go but up, with little baggage dragging them down.
Of course, we in the senior generations can't just stick our heads in the sand, waiting for Gen Y to fly in Superman-style to save the day. If asked, most of us would loudly agree that Gen Y is not yet ready to lead the free world. So... we must keep trying to fix the problems we, in large part, created.
At the same time, we must realize that our generation has seemingly lost all desire to collaborate, reason and create. It's time for us to acknowledge that we've failed as stewards of our era... that we haven't lived up to the expectations, and trust, of those who follow. Gen Y is constantly accused of being "entitled", yet it is we Boomers seemingly so spoiled by previous success... that we're unable to cope with current reality.
Based on our performance as leaders over the last decade, if the world were to reduce Boomers down to a one-person composition... we would be the most unremarkable, uninspiring role model on the planet.
We've lost it.
It's time to invite Gen Y - years before they were supposed to be ready - to help save the world.
Follow Mark Babbitt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/MarkSBabbitt