Business succession expert Kelin E. Gersick has consulted with families from all over the world. “All families have much in common,” he says, “but they vary in important ways.” One way he mentions is the status and attention given to the old versus the young.
In American culture, we tend to value youth, for their new ideas, energy, ambition, and independence. In other cultures — such as the Middle East, Asia, and some parts of Latin America — the older generation is more honored for their wisdom and experience. Both cultural tendencies present challenges for the role of the senior generation in the last third of their lives.
Utilizing the Older Generation
In the age-respecting cultures, seniors may hold on to organizational power too long, and the voices of the rising middle-aged generation get frustrated. In the youth-focused cultures, seniors may be expected to disappear after handing over the reins. “In many cases, the older generation is active, healthy, and vibrant. Every decade, the average number of healthy years expands. They don’t want to go play golf every day,” Gersick says. “They want to be productive for decades, beyond the time when it’s appropriate for the next generation to assume organizational leadership and authority.”
We don’t have good models for all generations — young and old — to work together well in those ages. Creating a life structure for the senior generation to grow, thrive, and actively contribute is something Gersick is passionate about. He hopes to find solutions for these highly competent seniors to make an impact on the businesses they built while encouraging the growth of the upcoming generation.
There’s a lot of wisdom there. A lot of passion. And a generation who aren’t quite done yet.
Kelin Gersick, Ph.D. is a Management Fellow at the Yale School of Organization and Management, and Professor Emeritus of Organizational Psychology at the California School of Professional Psychology. He is also co-founder and a senior partner of Lansberg, Gersick & Associates, a research and consulting firm in New Haven, Connecticut, that serves family businesses, family offices, and family foundations.
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by Laura A. Roser
CEO and Founder of Paragon Road
#1 Expert in Meaning Legacy Planning