Over the years, I have done some work with YPO – the Young Presidents Organisation. They are an invitation only network and peer mentoring organisation for successful entrepreneurs with the goal of personal and business improvement – for themselves and their families. I have always enjoyed my interactions with the organisation and their members.
Their website says that the YPO is the premier international network of young global leaders, connecting more than 11,000 members in 202 local chapters in 100 nations to learn and exchange ideas to address the challenges young leaders face today. All members of this worldwide, not-for-profit, executive education organization of peers are age 55 or younger. YPO was born with the express purpose to help build “Better Leaders Through Education and Idea Exchange” among its peer members and their families.
I believe that when YPO was first started, that upper age limit was 50 years of age, and many chapters still impose that limit. When you reach that age, you have to shift your membership to the WPO (World Presidents’ Organization).
In July 2007, YPO and WPO merged to create one organisation. That integration has now been completed. See a news report about the merger.
I had to smile when I heard about the merger. You could see this one coming a mile off… (I have even spoken to YPO chapters about this very thing).
You see, the Baby Boomers (those people born after the Second World War and into the 1950s and early 60s) are now over 50 years old. They no longer qualify to be part of the YPO. They should have all “retired” to the older, senior WPO. But that’s not how it goes with Boomers. They grew up in the era of rock n roll, where grand visions abounded and you could be anything you wanted to be. Dreams were big, opportunities limitless, and the children of the era were imprinted with these values. Optimistic, idealistic, outcomes oriented, youth obsessed, workaholics, driven by a sense of destiny and legacy – this generation truly has changed the world (I am fully aware that I write this post in the week that a Boomer-created company, Microsoft, turns 35 years old). The leaders and drivers on the world stage today are almost without exception, Boomers.
And Boomers are not going to retire. When I wrote my book on different generations, “Mind the Gap”, the chapter on the future of retirement was titled: “Retyrement”. I predicted that Boomers would change how we viewed retirement completely.
So, it’s no surprise at all that when the oldest of the Baby Boomers found themselves being “retired” from YPO, that they changed the age limit from 50 to 55. Now that a lot of the Boomers have reached that milestone, it is again no surprise that they have come up with a “win-win” scenario that “makes sense for everyone” and have merged WPO with YPO. Now they don’t have to “retire” anymore.
There’s nothing wrong with this, of course. And since WPO’s mission was mainly about creating senior statesmen, this is probably a good thing. Boomers are not ready to move out of direct leadership and into statesman roles, so it probably IS better to keep them in YPO. But, it nevertheless did make me smile. It’s nice when one of your predictions is so consistently proved right.
On another note, there are going to be instances in the near future when this sort of stuff from Boomers is going to be a lot less pretty. This will happen at firms based on partnerships, for example, when the Boomer senior partners refuse to leave. It’s going to impact countries where social security is not a pay as you go basis (i.e. almost everywhere), and the younger generations must pay for the Boomer’s elderly excesses. A simple example is the fact that if you don’t retire at age 65 and continue to earn your large CEO salary, why should you have access to pensioner rates at public facilities?
This is a ticking demographic time bomb that not enough companies are dealing with properly. The YPO-WPO merger might have made sense to the Boomers, but it does deny the younger generations of YPOers the type of YPO experience the Boomers had. I don’t know what internal politics have emerged, but I wonder if the Boomers have actually handed over the reigns of control and influence to the younger leaders, or whether they’ve used this merger as an opportunity to retain some of that too? With all the best intentions in the world, of course…
Do you see evidence of the influence of this trend in your industry or company? You probably don’t have to look hard to find it. Welcome to the wonderful world of the ever-young amazing Baby Boomers.