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Following the Idols (Part 1): The Generation of Diplomats (1973-1984)

A series on the business idols of different generations

Idols have always played an important role in people’s lives. This is true in general, but it is especially true in business. However, in the last two decades, the role of idolism has increased dramatically when looking at the success of a company. Whereas in the past we could say that a truly idolic leader helps a company to grow, today we have come to the point where without true idols there is no growth for any business. Moreover, with advances in technology, the almost complete fusion of career and personal life, and the advent of social media, it is becoming increasingly difficult to pretend to be an idol. Because it is precisely because of this evolution that the most important aspect is to be authentic in the eyes of talent. But this does not include acting, the techniques learned over many years of management training do not work. We need to become and remain role models in a truly self-consistent way, without acting. Moreover, it does not matter in which generation we want to be an idol. This series of articles will give guidance on this complex but otherwise very black and white subject for idols and talent, but also for those who are interested in the subject in general.

Ideal Timing

This generation has been the clear generator of change in idolism. The generation born between 1973 and 1984 was highly diplomatic, highly skilled in networking and communication, and used tactics to achieve their goals. They built up their careers even decades faster than the generation before them, mainly because of the fortunate circumstances of their entry into the labour market. The world was undergoing major changes when they entered the labour market. At a global level, the end of the Soviet Union, the invasion of capitalism into the former communist countries, and the rise of the West, fundamentally built their career paths. In addition, the acceleration of globalisation in this period also brought with it increased language skills, internationalism and a global outlook. Technology has developed enormously, with the creation of essentials such as the internet, computers and the mobile phone service, which is the basis of communication, all starting from childhood and growing up during this generation. They were also the first to be exposed to social media, as it was this generation that pioneered the communication platform that is now an absolutely integral part of our lives. The first start-ups can also be linked to this era, so it was here that we first saw global success stories grow from nothing in the space of a year or two. And thanks to the evolution of the communications background, these successes were easier to communicate, and because this generation is very strong in communications, it made sure that everyone was aware of the results. Many people say – especially the envious ones who are not of this generation – that this generation just had to be born, and it is true to say that they have always been in a very good position in business terms. Their challenges are, or will be, mainly in their personal lives precisely because of the career focus, but that’s what they say something for something.

The idols of the Diplomats

It could be said that the only generation still active today has made itself an idol. No wonder, given their talents and timing, older generations were very easily squeezed out of decision-making positions, were able to pursue careers much more easily and quickly than their predecessors, and were not really looked up to. This is not to say, of course, that they did not choose people from the older age group as role models, but it is certainly true that they went their own way, looking after themselves. In general, they wanted to outdo their peers of the older generation, they did so with innovation and creativity, and they were very good at communicating this to the outside world. As they are also strong in networking, they move easily on a global scale, which always creates new and new opportunities for them. But they tend to make idols of their own peers, and tend to follow businesspeople who have an outstanding career and work-life balance. It is very important for them to accept as idols only those with a happy personal life, since it is generally true that this slightly more selfish generation has tended to focus on their own careers and to forget to build a stable personal life in the shadows. As a result, burn-out at managerial level is a common phenomenon, which is a major challenge for HR professionals. An important feature of the idol is to be truly strong professionally. As this generation is basically able to convince the outside world of their non-existent professional knowledge, they know exactly who the real professionals are. These professionals are generally unpopular within their own generation, as they are more “square” than their peers, but that is precisely why they are the role models to follow. The other important idol group are the very creative, highly innovative managers who have made a real name for themselves. For the Diplomats generation, it is not money but recognition, “professional fame”, that is the idol.

It is not easy to be an idol in the eyes of a Diplomats, and even harder to remain an idol. This is a very big challenge for companies where colleagues born between 1973 and 1984 are in the majority or in key positions in the company, because only there is progress, only there is employee turnover avoided, where these normally successful professionals find in their idols what they lack!