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Following the Idols (Part 5): The Authoritarian Generation (1949-1960)

A series on the business idols of different generations.

The oldest generation in the workforce today are the ones who have really seen a lot in their lives. At international level, we are talking about owners of major companies, key members of boards of directors, board members, for whom the idol image has been constantly evolving throughout their lives. The world has changed enormously during the careers of this generation, and that has made them quite unique. Traditionally, it is said that the old don’t understand the young, but the Authoritarians generation refutes these standard adages. They are much more accepting of the young and of novelty in general than, for example, the younger Perfectionists. They have built themselves up in a self-taught way, because the education system and globalisation processes were still very much in their infancy. That’s why they value the work they have achieved on their own, even with two hands. But they were also always interested in new things, even if they were difficult to apply. For them, the real idol was still their parents, and the drastic changes in the labour market that this brought about were difficult to cope with.

Ideal timing

When we want to understand the values of the Authoritarians generation in relation to idols, it is important to know that they were young a long time ago, when the world was still very much shifting towards a world where parents were above all. Democracy within the family was generally not the norm, and this was the attitude that children received at school. There were the adults, the superiors – and let no one misunderstand this, with all its positive and negative connotations – and then there were the children. So, basically, the elderly got respect just because they were older. How far this was the right direction and how far it was not is obviously debatable. There are those who reject it, there are those who reject it outright, and of course there are still possibilities between the two extremes. This theory of “accepting the adult by default and respecting them just because they are an adult” was rejected by the Diplomats, the children of the Authoritarians. They began to examine and appreciate that just because one is an adult does not mean that one is respectable. That’s where it all started: the theory of respect for children, which is now an essential part of, for example, educational culture. So the methods that many people think are ancient have had a strong influence on this age group, and they have retained the idea that we should be respected, because we are the adults now, we are the elderly. We have worked very hard, we have worked very hard, we have worked very hard to build our lives, and young people should respect that without question. So for them, a fast career, the replacement of human labour with technology, has always been, if not a direction to be rejected, at least not a preferred one. They were therefore in sharp contrast with the proactive generations, as members of the Diplomats and Ambitionists generation broke the very rules that for them were a sacrosanct category. To this day, it is typical – business developers often report this phenomenon – that setting up a new machine, even if it involves very high costs, is almost natural for this generation, but paying money for, say, business strategy is a completely unnecessary expense category. Then, in the 2008 crisis, they got a very serious slap in the face, their whole world view collapsed and their rules were swept away like an avalanche by business.

The idols of the Authoritarians

If we are honest, we are talking about a very “stubborn” generation who have not changed their mindset on idols and still do not accept modern idols. They have learned to live with the phenomenon, but they don’t really understand how anyone who earns their money “without a job” can be looked up to. Especially if it is still a knowledge-based company, that is an even bigger challenge for them, as paper is worthless in itself. The succession of companies has been a serious issue for years – perhaps more than a decade – precisely because of this mindset. They know that drastic changes would come if they handed the business to the next generation, but they built it with their own two hands, it is their child and they will not let it be destroyed. That’s why most companies run by a generation of Authoritarians have headed for stagnation and then a nice, slow decline. This process has been significantly depressed by the 2008 crisis and then by the effects of COVID-19, but there is little sense any more among the Authoritarians that they want to change so much. They are not forced to do so by necessity, so they live their lives as they please. They certainly look up to a serious professional, they are recognised, but they see their presence as an interest rather than an example to follow. If you ask anyone from this generation, they will still cite a parent, a teacher, an adult they looked up to as an idol. They often ‘blindly’ cling to this image, even if life has shown them that there is nothing idol-like about that person, they just saw him or her as a child.

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Following the Idols (Part 4): Followers generation (1997-2008)