Shrinking Leadership and the Need for High Performance
May 8, 2007

With a pattern of declining birthrates and an increasingly older population in the workforce, a predominant pattern around the industrialized world, the need to train leaders is becoming more imperative. In the U.S. we have the added situation of "boomers" and "echo-boomers" which indicates that changes in the workforce are not going away in this century. Compounding the issue is that over the next decade only 30% of twenty-year-olds will obtain a college degree. The bottom line is that HR will have to change the "requirements" of job descriptions to "desires," and employers will need to become educators. That is according to Tamara J. Erickson, co-author of Workforce Crisis.

This trend is reinforced by a highly diverse workforce with very diverse values converging in the workforce. They carry generational differences that will need to be managed and led differently. Sadly, the educational system is not prepared for the knowledge economy needed to lead high- performance in organizations. As a result organizations will find themselves in more of a position to provide professional development. It is a necessity for competitive organizations to be gearing up for this now. Organizations also need to be looking at ways to converge HR and training as a standard practice to keep pace in a highly complex labor market. In short, shrinking available leadership does not equate with the ability to lead high- performance work teams.

Across the generations, organizations are facing increased ethnic and racial diversity. They are also looking squarely in the face these challenges:

  • Declining engagement in work
  • Less alignment with the organizational values
  • Differences in outlook/optimism on life
  • Shifting competencies with technology
  • Lack of desire for greater job responsibility

Are your managers and leaders able to cultivate the diverse talents of diversity, generational differences, and shifting talents? Will they be able to lead teams to productivity and high-performance? If your answer is no, or you are not sure, you may have great reason to be concerned about putting your plans in place to lead the charge of professional development in your organization.

In order to be prepared to cultivate the potential of each of the "generations," engaging in a strategic plan to address this issue will put your organization in a better position to gain than anything you might be expending for training. Your organization is probably already seeing the boomers looking for greater flexibility in taking time off for leisure. But, at the same time, they want to stay employed. Meanwhile, the 35-45 year olds are looking for more family time and are less willing to take on greater responsibility because of that.

The following plan will help you build a leadership team that lasts.

  1. Start with a sound hiring strategy for the best leadership that looks at current and future needs.
  2. Create a plan for retaining new and identified existing leadership talent in the organization.
  3. Examine workplace dimensions such as leadership, communication, training, and recognition.
  4. Create a leadership skills training program for existing managers as well as up-and-coming leaders in the 25-34 year-old group that focuses on team member self-esteem, behavior, and participation.

Fortunately, there is still time to act in putting your organizational plan in place. The world around you is changing and it includes the new millennium workforce that is not going away. It is different, but recognizing that you need to adapt will help you catch the wave of high-performance and not be left behind in the sand.


Erickson, T. J. (2006). New Models of Work: Avoiding the Coming Crisis of the Change Workforce. Society of Human Resource Annual Conference Masters Series presentation.

Salopek, J. J. (June 2006). Leadership for a New Age. Training and Development.

Salopek, J. J. (April 2006). Nature and Nurture. Training and Development.

Vital Learning Corporation (2007). Essential Skills of Leadership.

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