BCG Henderson Institute

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Addressing challenges like climate change and biodiversity loss will require technical innovations. As such, a strong curiosity for unearthing new approaches is key. But just as crucial is that we are willing, even eager, to change our beliefs and behaviors accordingly.

Organizations are being hampered on both fronts by their leadership structures, as those with the most power to drive change may not be the most eager to do so — and vice versa. A seasoned leader may favor short-term results over long-term benefits that won’t manifest during their tenure. Moreover, they may be reluctant to challenge the mental models or organizational structures that have underpinned their success. Conversely, younger professionals may be more open to pursuing new paths leading to long-term payoffs, given their longer career horizons. Yet, they are usually not in the position to effect change within their organizations.

As societies around the world continue to age, there are calls for firms to increase the age diversity in their workforces and improve the inclusion of older, more experienced workers. While supporting this aim, we argue that age diversity also needs to be enhanced in a different way: Aging leadership structures need to involve less experienced talent in order to rebalance the tensions of experience vs. curiosity and of efficient execution vs. bold exploration. Striving towards intergenerational leadership can accelerate companies’ efforts to build a sustainable future—and unlock competitive advantages at the same time.

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