Generation X-it

Can we afford to retire … with the work half-done? A blog relating the prospect of retirement, possibility of resignation from role, and the need to carry-on

Boris is done – surely – the rogue that some love but who many more have come to hate. If there is one undeniable truth – two words not quickly associated with his testimony – it is that he never gives up on himself.

My first question tonight is just how different is he from the leaders we may each aspire to be? We of similar age, if not similar bravado and self-belief. Boris, 58 years old – born June 1964 – represents the last of the baby-boomers by category of age (baby-boomers born 1946-1964). I am firmly within generation X (born 1965-1980), and by age alone it is now we whose time of life sees us amassing towards those top-most roles. So are we going to be the first of better, or the worst that there has been? We who grew-up to the mantra of greed is good, into low inflation and cheap flights, distracted by new tech and toys, and the internet of disposable things, when millionaires were the wealthy, not anyone with a maxed out pension pot. Are we set to be the most self-serving, self-righteous, and guilty in possibility of being the keenest to call time of any generation before? Is Boris the last, or the first of more to come?

Control of narrative or action?

I took the time to watch Boris’ testimony at the liaison select committee today {here}. His excuses extended to suggesting a culture of alcohol abuse in government {here 1:47:01}. No indication that lessons learnt in this latest episode include the appropriate checks of or support to candidates for government roles. In response to being asked what system is in place to help people with behavioural problems or alcohol, there was no offer of explanation beyond “we all have a duty as colleagues to look out for each other and to try and help people” (ibid ~1:48:03). There was curiously little suggestion that serious allegations of sexual misconduct sit long in his memory. Nor much indication that the vague recollection of parties which required an independent enquiry to help him recall, were being supported by any more rigorous means of decision-making assurance via record keeping or data control. Related or unrelated, such facts seem to reflect outdated cultural norms. Truth engineering or political spin, what his tenure exposes is an infection or pandemic of woeful attitudes, actions, and beliefs that exist alongside a lack of interest in critical controls, scrutiny of people or process, or even the basic expectations of recall of what to most would be stand-out moments of concern.

Boris does not stand and fall alone in this, but his leadership does stand apart for its sheer audaciousness in its disregard. Whilst I do not seriously think baby-boomers or generation X are suitably tarred with that one brush, it is we, generation X, who have every chance to be equally complicit and be remembered with similar disgrace if our own interest in those we serve and the wider communities we are part are not held higher in our priority of care.

Rewiring or retiring?

This I now present in its wider context. The world stage of which we are each now citizen actors upon. Change is upon us, environmental and socio-economic. Whether we are to blame or not is now irrelevant. The world need has changed, or at least our awareness of it has become more complete. It is with the constructive criticism and reflection of the likes of Boris Johnson that I think it this generation of proxy leaders, generation X, that is most in need to respond to what comes next. Not because we took more, or gave less, but just because we must.

Leadership is landing in the laps of many who may never have wanted it. For others it is reward for 30 years of work that has come before. Nest eggs, houses accruing value, or simply a realisation that the work can soon come to an end. We are now that generation that sets the culture in our workplace. And hearing Boris acknowledge an integrity vacuum under his watch, but to then present alcohol abuse as a cause not an effect, offers new insight into just how loose his hand upon the reins have been, and how undignified his grip now is. The flippant question may be where is his stewardship of those he serves beyond the garden G&Ts? The more serious observation is where is the control environment he should be the champion of, to aid his memory and not his sleaze?

Control environments can assist the management of actions, at least to a point. But what of attitude? And is our attitude, generation X, really so different in that respect? Whether we are a leader or labourer, this is our time. To first of all demand better from our peers. Second of all to take ownership of what mess we now preside over, even if not ours made. In my opinion there is plenty who need to rewire their thinking, their behaviour, and their beliefs. But most of all, we are now either the last generation to lead for ourselves, or the first to lead for the next. That’s the attitude rewiring we may be forced to make.

Next is the question of retirement. A rather recent societal expectation in historic terms, and one that seems rather 20th Century in a time of longer life and longer debt. Retirement seems to me the last thing we should be aiming for, despite it now being within our grasp. For some I fear that is perhaps already not a choice. But it seems to me what the world needs right now is all the help it can get. And if it’s help that is required, maybe we are the generation that now needs to show what leadership is in deed, not reward for making it to the lucrative top step. Many of us have lived our whole lives in debt, but what we are borrowing most of all, is the future planetary health for the next.

If Boris and his party bus is demonstrating anything to us – his real peers – it is that leadership is action, not title. And deed is assessed by those whom one is serving, not by those to who the perks are being served. If leadership feeds a machine that serves itself, the disorder and disrespect that spreads to all is absolute. Boris’ time in charge should stand for that. A caricature from which generation X should note, reflect upon, and seek to be opposed. But wider still is that me first attitude, the consume today pay tomorrow, the dispose and disregard, we have all become culturally attached. It is from this expectation that politics is permitted to be about the now, and therein the never never.

If there is money to retire, there is money to do more whilst needing to be paid less. Maybe that is a deed that sets the leadership example to the next. Aiming toward a sustainable platform (contribution), not sustenance towards gout (consumption). Generation X-it, becoming generation fix-it.


Visibility | behaviour | trust

Closing remarks using v|b|t. By such leadership failings it’s getting harder to find places to hide. Yet there seems a whole barracks of generals still strategising over shared greed. It’s a minority but seemingly unaccounted and unopposed. We must be an army of people at the top of their game – generation X now approaching those years that count double – doubling up or halving effort – that could be stepping out armed with the questions that cut deepest in repost. Or being the more selfless leader seeking less but wanting to contribute more.

Maybe it is we, generation X, who secretly eye up the retirement age escape, that should be first to redirect the aim. Seeking out those opportunities to do more. To bring more to the table than we take away. And in acting, so demand more of those in these roles to do the same. Maybe then we can watch our peers with pride. And not cringe in shame, as we see the self-serving lies they try to hide.

Visibility returning to the blindest eyes. Behaviours unbecoming both permitted and rewarded, lies told in defence, blame diverted and scape-goats made. Trust lost even from the closest aides, as the last knot of control by distraction is finally frayed.

Maybe such metric along such lines can indeed be found. Seeking to identify where projection and controls are so desperately unaligned. That one, in some small way in the research I have set out to undertake, I am putting down to me.

To be continued…