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Following the Idols (Part 2): the Perfectionist Generation (1961-1972)

A series on the business idols of different generations.

If those who followed the Diplomats generation say that they were in the right place at the right time – and they are not wrong – it must be accepted that the same was said of the Perfectionist Generation for a very long time by the Diplomats. And it is indeed true that they were the first generation in business after World War II for whom it was paramount that, unlike their predecessors, they did not give much preference to “self-taught” learning methods, but acquired their knowledge through concrete studies. As a result, they were able to move up the international ladder to positions of prominence, and believed that the experience they had built up alongside their knowledge had cemented them in their retirement positions. It is for this reason that their idols also became individuals with a quantity of experience, with objective, tangible, paper-based evidence of knowledge. It is precisely because of this that they have received the biggest slap in the face about idolism from the business world.

Ideal Timing

It is safe to say that this generation did not want any change in idolism. They had a neatly constructed system that they believed in perfectly, which could be predictably tracked if with each successive year of professional experience, managers became more and more important and desirable professionals, and became more and more idols to those who followed in their wake. The quantity and quality of the degrees was a critical element for the idol images, so this could also be planned nicely. Into this situation came the arrival of the Diplomat generation, which drastically changed what had been a well-functioning agenda. The startup world was the first to shake things up, as it typically presented a very skewed mirror to the usual mechanism, in that a good idea and a really serious skill set does not have to wait years or decades, it can conquer the world immediately and succeed almost instantly. Of course, this has also meant that the march up the career ladder has been disrupted. Criteria have emerged in business that have made it impossible for many business people who belong to the Perfectionists to remain idols, to function as idols. The lack of globalisation, the complete change in IT culture, the initial rejection and then lack of understanding of social media and modern communication channels in general, have created serious challenges for this generation. Of course, as in every generation, there were those who were at the forefront of these areas, in complete contrast to their generation. They did not rush in, but supported and strengthened the new generation of people who were playing by a different set of rules, so that they could remain, if not idols, then recognised professionals. And of course there are some professionals who ‘stood out’ from their own generation with their mindset and innovative personality, and they became idols for the next generation, but this is certainly not the case for the Perfectionists generation in general. In terms of idolism, they represent the past rather than the future.

Idols of the Perfectionists

It is very difficult to define this category because it has been constantly changing over the years. They initially rejected the Diplomats generation of businessmen, but after the Great Recession in 2009 they turned more and more towards them. The pandemic has reinforced this sentiment. Whereas ten years ago, for example, the general view among the top managers of this generation was that, although they talked about it a lot, they didn’t really want to let professionals from the Ambitionists – born between 1985 and 1996 – into their companies, this has now changed completely. Generally speaking, there are two very different faces of this generation. One, who to this day rejects change and insists that it is thirty years of experience, not real knowledge, that counts. They are losers and will increasingly lose. But the other part of the generation has accepted change. In general, those business people who were not so successful in their own generation have moved faster, because they were “out of the queue”. They are becoming more connected and are not afraid or even ashamed to ask for support from the Diplomats generation of real professionals – even though the Perfectionists generation tends to let their own business and career go rather than ask for help from younger people – and are achieving great success and there is a growing focus on bringing even younger generations into the organisation so that they can benefit from all age groups. Who are your role models? Mostly the Diplomats generation of Expert professionals, as they embody the idolism of both the past and the future in their eyes.

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