07 March 2006

Leadership and aging

According to Paul Schnabel and Peter Ester it is simple. If the Dutch leadership does not address the coming wave of aging citizens, the Dutch will be toast. Secretary Hoogervorst already mentioned that it will come to the stage that there will only be two employees in elderly care for every elder.

In real life it will not be as worse as these Dutch gentlemen suggest. First more and more elderly are growing old healthy. Secondly it will take somewhere between twenty and forty years to ride this wave of elderly citizens. So just bite the bullet.

On the other hand from the point of view of leadership is addressing aging in the workforce is a good thing. Simply because there will be less youngsters to do all the work. It will be necessary to use the elderly (aging) employee.

Up to now you often saw, that companies out of cost cutting fired their older employees. Which often resulted in their return for a consultancy fee, comparable to their year salary, just to get their work done. You could question this kind of leadership or should it be called bean counting?

A solution for addressing aging is employees taking their responsibility. A proponent of this idea is Rupert Spijkerman. For leaders however it is necessary to create the possibility for the employees to take their responsibility. If the rules do not allow employees to carry responsibility you get what you could call bureaucratism (the rules do not allow it, so I do not do anything outside the rules). With the strange side effect, that the same rule abiding employee, in the world outside of his job actively takes part in all kinds of enterprising activities. So here Schnabel and Ester have a point. if the rules do not change, older employees will not change. A important instrument for leaders to use, is leading by example: change your own attitude towards aging employees.