Opinion

Creating a New Generation of Leaders

Editorial

As everyone knows by know, the Baby Boom generation is already at or rapidly approaching retirement age. The oldest members of this huge constituency will hit 70 this year, and millions more will reach retirement age, be it 65, 67, or something earlier if they’ve done well for themselves, over the next several years.

This wave of retirements will pose myriad challenges for the region and its business community, especially when it comes to replacing experienced workers, especially in fields such as healthcare and manufacturing. Filling these voids will require diligence and imagination because the problem will surely impact virtually every sector and almost every business.

While the region must look upon this situation with a good deal of dread, we believe the same cannot be said for another realm, or void — that concerning leadership.

Indeed, if there is one thing our planning and economic-development agencies have done well over the past several years, it’s creating and expanding programs dedicated to preparing area young people for leadership roles — be they in business, government, or the nonprofit sector.

There are several programs and groups that fall into this leadership-prep category, among them the area’s young-professional societies; Leadership Pioneer Valley, which was created several ago as a result of a recognized need for more programs of this nature; the Springfield Regional Chamber’s Leadership Institute; and the Women’s Fund’s Leadership Institute of Political and Public Impact (LIPPI), the subject of a story on page 23.

That sounds like it might even be too many programs, but this region needs as many as it can get.

That’s because leadership is an attainable skill, and the more effective leaders we have in Western Mass., the better off this area will be.

As you read the story on LIPPI, you will note many participants saying the program has helped them take on more challenges located outside of their comfort zone, or words to that effect. And the same can essentially be said of the other programs listed above, and this bodes very well for the region, individual cities and towns, and the business community as well.

As comfort zones become larger, people become more willing and, usually, more able to take on challenges and become both problem solvers and innovators, things this region will need more than nurses and qualified precision machinists, although we’ll need them too.

The story on LIPPI also reveals that, through its various programs, many women have been able to reach higher and then attain what they’re reaching for, a very important consideration given that, in this region, as in most others, this is a constituency still defined by the phrase ‘untapped potential.’

Moving forward, we encourage more young people to take full advantage of the many opportunities now afforded them to develop and hone their leadership skills. Doing so will create opportunities for them and the communities they’ve chosen to live and work in. And it will ultimately (we hope) enable this region to remain competitive in what will be an increasingly global economy.

There are many challenges that will induce anxiety in the years to come, especially the retirement of all those Baby Boomers. Thanks to some forward thinking and imaginative new programs, finding qualified leaders shouldn’t be an issue that falls into that same category.

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