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Bill George

Harvard Business School Professor, former Medtronic CEO

Where Have All the Leaders Gone (Part III)

Move over, baby boomers. The emerging leaders have a different set of experiences, expectations, and rules.

When Jimmy Connors reached the top of the tennis world, reporters asked whether he could continue to beat the veterans. His blunt response: “I’m only worried about the young guys coming up behind me.”

Well, baby boomers, watch out, because the emerging leaders are coming up fast behind you. Their approach to leadership is entirely different than yours. They don’t care about position power, status, and organizational hierarchy, or even having followers. Instead, they are superb networkers who find collaborators to create opportunities and businesses. They are on line 24/7, always networking, always in touch. That’s why Facebook and You Tube are so popular.

The emerging leaders are knowledge workers who typically know more than their bosses. They collaborate with people who have skills they don’t. Growing up with diversity as the norm, they understand the benefits of diverse people working together to solve the world’s most pressing problems.

Detest Corporate Politics

When considering large, well-established organizations, they see bureaucracy, layers of management, policies and procedures, and rules-all things that scare them. At their core they are flexible, fast-moving, and innovative, and they don’t want their creativity stifled. They detest corporate politics, as they want to be judged on their merits and have freedom to get things done.

Most important, they want to lead now and use their considerable skills to make a difference. They are highly confident about their abilities and won’t wait in line for years to get their chance. They are willing to make great sacrifices to accomplish their goals. If current opportunities aren’t satisfying, they won’t hesitate to move to more appealing situations.

They anticipate long, active lives-living well beyond 100-but want to make it now. They have a passion to change the world and aren’t prepared to settle for less.

The Next Generation

Who are these new leaders? The leading edge includes fortysomethings like Randy Komisar, former chief executive of LucasArts, now at Kleiner Perkins; John Donahoe at eBay (EBAY); Donna Dubinsky, founder of Handspring and Numenta; Kent Thiry, who infused kidney-dialysis company DaVita with new life in 1999; Chip Conley, founder of Joie de Vivre Hotels; and Bruce Chizen, CEO of Adobe (ADBE). They follow in the footsteps of role models such as Howard Schultz, Bill Gates, and Michael Dell.

Let’s take a closer look at some younger leaders who are ready to step onto the big stage:

o Wendy Kopp had such passion for improving inner-city education that she founded Teach For America at only 22. With no money or management experience, she overcame enormous obstacles, including resistance from the educational establishment.