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As boomers try to abstinence, a generational shake-up occurs at the top

As boomers try to abstinence, a generational shake-up occurs at the top

The second in an occasional series about the future of the baby boomers.

There's a lot to lose: the enormous salary, access, and influence. Business lunches and first-class travel. Staff waiting on their word and whim, but the baby boomers still run the majority of the nation's business, cultural, and political bastions have been late to get out of the corner office. There's a lot to lose: the massive pay. Access and influence. Business lunches and first-class travel. Staffs waiting on their word and whim.

Many are already rushing ahead into their late 1960s or 70s, if not beyond. But as their generation matures after dominating American history for the last three decades, the boomers at the very top are sure to be among the last holdouts. From Patriots football coach Bill Belichick to Senator Elizabeth Warren to film director Steven Spielberg, many are already rushing ahead in their late 60s or 70s, if not beyond.

Boomers hold the majority of the CEO positions at top public firms, most of the seats in Congress, and the majority of the votes in the academy that receives Oscars, which is no means true in the leadership class, where stepping aside means confronting a frequently confusing question: Whats next? Boomers still hold the majority of the CEO jobs at top public businesses, most of the seats in Congress, and the majority of the votes in the academy that gives out Oscars.

Yet their power capabilities are getting more precarious as these high-octane players navigate not always smooth a world changing all around them. The movement of technology is rewriting the rules in almost every field. Pressure is rising for a more diverse workforce, particularly in leadership ranks that remain disproportionately white and male. And a new generation is requiring a representation in how organizations operate and what they stand for, pushing climate change to the top.

Boomer bosses have to adapt because their businesses are changing, their customers are changing, and their employees are changing, according to workplace consultant Lindsey Pollak, 47, author of The Remix, a book about the new multigenerational workplace. They have to keep up with the zeitgeist. If not, they can become irrelevant.

COVID-19 prompted some to wonder how much longer they want to work and how much longer they want to work. The twin shocks of the lengthy pandemic and the infatuation of racial injustice sparked by George Floyd's killing have redoubled the pressure for leadership to rise, inciding more boomer bosses towards the door. For a generation whose youngest members turned 57 this year, COVID-19 forced some to consider their own mortality.

Peter Slavin, 63, who left Massachusetts General Hospital in September, said he had been considering the move prior to the epidemic, but the outbreak of coronavirus was no time to step aside. Now, he said, he's ready to start a second chapter of his career.

The widespread call for police reforms that followed Floyd's death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer has been especially difficult and exhausting for law enforcement leaders. Newton's police chief, David MacDonald, 57, was among almost 100 officers in Massachusetts who called it quits during the last year amid street protests and increased scrutiny in their towns and towns.

MacDonald said, "I knew I couldn't get work done in that environment," and "people in this day and age aren't satisfied with incremental advancement."

The rise of youthful insurgents like 32-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, who knocked off a boomer member of the House leadership in 2018, and Jon Ossoff, 34, who knocked off a boomer incumbent in Georgia early this year to flip the Senate to the Democrats, has also fueled the rise of youthful insurgents, such as 32-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, who knocked off

Ayanna Pressley, 47, who ran on the slogan of "change can't wait" to become the only Black member of the state's delegation, praised former congressman Michael Capuano, 69, for an 11th term in Massachusetts, but the progressive Democrat was obstructed by Ayanna Pressley, 47, who portrayed the 'change can't wait' as the only Black member of the state's delegation. Capuano said he may no longer be in tune with

I can't twist myself into a pretzel just to be elected, Capuano said. I'm not interested in changing enough to do today's politics.... It's one's turn, and I wish them the best.

Boomers who live up to leadership positions have learned to embrace calls for change or are looking at their goals differently. Senator Ed Markey, 75, fended off a rival more than three decades his junior by trumpeting his environmental gooda fides and striking alliances with young firebrands like Ocasio-Cortez.

Andrew Dreyfus, 63, has marbled social activism into his position as chief executive of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. The health insurer recently launched a program to pay doctors more if they close persistent gaps in care for individuals of color. Dreyfus admitted he sometimes hears "impatience and the undercurrent of an accusation from the young about a slew of unaddressed problems being left for them.

A Boston Globe study found that boomers continue to hold the majority of the top positions at some key power centers, but their numbers are down, and many of their successors are more diverse in their gender, race, and outlook.

Boomers now hold 13 of the CEO positions at the 25 major public firms in Massachusetts, down from 18 five years ago. In the United States, the ranks of boomers reigning over the top 100 giants on the Fortune 500 list have risen from 82 to 67 in the same span.

John Maraganore, 59, CEO of Cambridge biotech Alnylam; Steve Kaufer, 58, cofounder of Needham travel website Tripadvisor; Al Sandrock, 64, chief medical officer at drugmaker Biogen in Cambridge; and John Van Siclen, 65, CEO of Waltham software intelligence firm Dynatrace all announced retirements.

Despite Joe Biden's 79th term as president last year, political leadership is also younger and away from boomersand now four generations residing over the country. Before Biden, there'd been four successive members of the generation born between 1946 and 1964 residing over the nation.

Boston just elected its first millennial mayor in Michelle Wu, 36, the city's youngest leader in a century and 18 years younger than the last elected mayor, Martin J. Walsh, when Wu modeled the ambitious and multitasking approach of many younger leaders when she assured election night supporters, We don't have to choose between generational change and keeping the street lights on.

The number of boomer members has fallen from 276 to 230 in the US House of Representatives since 2016, while the number of boomers in Congress has dropped from seven to five in Massachusetts. In the US Senate, though, five members have been over 80 and only one under 40. Both of the Massachusetts senators are boomers.

It might be emotionally personal to decide when and whether to move on.

Youre responsible for the business and the livelihood of hundreds of people when you're in that corner office, you're never really off, Jim Roosevelt, 76, stated during a decade as chief executive of Tufts Health Plan in Watertown before retiring in 2015. You're responsible for the business and the livelihood of hundreds of people. Sometimes you get to the point where you've done it long enough. And you recognize you can contribute in other ways.

Helen Drinan, 74, delayed her departure as president of Simmons University in Boston for years to rescue the school from financial difficulty even as she began a battle against cancer that she requested to make public. You cant be president of one of the few remaining womens colleges in the United States and simply keep this a secret, she stated.

She felt it was time to step down in June 2020 and leave the university in the hands of her successor, Lynn Perry Wooten, a Black woman 20 years her junior whose expertise is in organizational transformation, after guiding Simmons through the early months of the epidemic.

Reshma Kewalramani, 48, was head of biotech Vertex in Boston, replacing 65-year-old Jeff Leiden as executive chairman. She has been outspoken in her support for diversity within the business.

In a company video, Kewalramani said, "There's no way to have this innovative method of thinking, repairing problems that have never been solved before, if everyone is the same."

The pace of change indicates no signs of slowing. Some younger workers who have come to appreciate the flexibility of working from home during the epidemic are resisting a return to the office every day, meaning older supervisors may indefinitely supervise a remote workforce.

The boomers are wanting to return to normal, but it's unclear what normal is now, said Basima Tewfik, an MIT professor who teaches work and organizations. Many in the younger generations, she said, are more comfortable with shift in their work lives and beyond.

According to veteran executive coach Priscilla Douglas, the wisest course for boomer bosses is to lead with empathy, be alert to ferment in their organisations, and advocate inclusiveness and collaboration.

Douglas, a boomer herself winding down her Somerville firm, dislikes the term retirement. She continues to counsel clients through board service and stays involved in business and the arts.

She said flatly, before a recent gathering of the American Repertory Theater board in Harvard's Radcliffe Yard. This phase of my life is all about being re-inspired. she said.

Late career crisis, which involves an adrenaline-pumping adrenaline-pumping star, has been an adrenaline-pumping delay.

Peter Slavin was the face of the COVID-19 response at Massachusetts General Hospital last year, meeting regularly with Governor Charlie Baker and highlighting the danger on national television when sick patients walked into intensive care centers.

Slavin, now a former hospital boss, has spent afternoons in Bedford studying to develop a Cessna in the Hanscom Field this fall.

As they sat in the cockpit, Slavin's flight instructor, Nate Weinsaft, advised him, You need to look up at the horizon.

Slavin had little time to think about his next move, during his 18 years as Mass. General's president, as he sought to address health problems and expand the reach of the nation's largest research facility while steering it through a series of crises. The last was the most violent.

He recalled, "They believed it had the potential to become a problem not only in China but also more broadly." His infectious disease and emergency preparedness teams were tracking "a very contagious and lethal respiratory virus emerging on the other side of the world in late December 2019, he said.

Biogen executives who attended a conference at a Boston hotel were turning up at the Mass. General emergency room asking for COVID-19 tests two months later. We needed to swing into action, Slavin said.

Slavin, who grew up in Malden and worked at Mass. General for almost his entire career, drew on lessons from previous crises, ranging from the stream of burn victims from the Station nightclub fire in West Warwick, R.I., the severely injured at the Boston Marathon bombing, but the epidemic was unique, both in its grinding intensity and its toll on patients and staff alike.

Slavin explained, "The adrenaline was pumping," as "the folks at this hospital responded."

Before the coronavirus epidemic had been over, a roster of boomer chiefs at Boston's teaching hospitals, including Betsy Nabel, 69, at Brigham & Women's; Sandra Fenwick, 71, at Boston Children's; Michael Apkon, 61, at Tufts Medical Center; and Slavin himself, had handed their jobs to younger successors (though some are also boomers).

Slavin said he'd planned to retire before the crisis, but now his office is in the middle of a $3 billion fund-raising campaign, a $1.9 billion financial project, and a clinical integration with Brigham & Women's and other hospitals that would result in a loss of autonomy, he added.

While Slavin has supported the consolidation strategy, he concluded that a younger hospital president should expect to see that and all of the multiyear projects completed.

But his final hospital crisis forced him realize that if I was going to have another chapter, given my life's fragility and my own mortality, I needed to do it sooner rather than later.

Generational turmoil is a political issue.

Mike Capuano is attempting to put his primary defeat behind him and live life at a normal pace, serving 10 terms in Congress, representing his home town of Somerville and areas of Boston and Cambridge. Then he was upset by Pressley, a Boston city councilor who shared the majority of his policy views but was able to mobilize younger first-time voters.

Today, the ex-congressman, who'll turn 70 in January, works half time as a business lobbyist for law firm Foley & Lardner. He's rebuilt a stairway in his basement, puttered on the golf course, and spent time with his family at a vacation home near Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire.

In a statement, he stated, "I sit out on my porch and have a glass of wine at the end of the day." I simply think I sit out on my porch and have a glass of wine at the end of the day, he said. I don't have to go to every chicken barbecue.

Capuano said the district he represented for two decades has changed because he recognized he isn't in line with today's identity politics and worries about the nation's rising polarization. I know who and what I am, he said. I don't want to be a 70-year-old hippie.

Senator Ed Markey is still racing to meetings on climate change issues on Capitol Hill in Washington, however. He invited Ocasio-Cortez to lunch in the Senate dining room shortly after her election, and they cosponsored the Green New Deal that became a focal point of Markey's reelection campaign. The senator said he isn't interested in scaling back now since you need a mission.

Markey, whos kept all of his Red Sox ticket stubs from the Impossible Dream season, can seem like a rebirth to an earlier era. But he's proven to be a remarkably durable politician, joining fellow Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders of Vermont in a tiny den of liberal lions who speak the language of a younger generation.

Markey reacted to a 41-year-old challenger, former representative Joe Kennedy III, in a closely watched primary last year, by appealing to younger voters as a fellow activist and "disrupter" who has been legislating for decades on the same issues that consume them.

The tactics may change, but the issues that resonate climate change, nuclear proliferation, and justice haven't changed, Markey said. It's always been the agenda of young people.

Many given Markey long odds against a fresh-faced challenger and a member of the Kennedy dynasty to boot, but Markey said he never saw it that way, reminding voters of his days as a mop-haired young congressman railing against the status quo. In the end, he benefited from a turnout of young voters two-thirds of college students cast ballots in 2020, many motivated by climate change and racial justice.

It's not your age, it's the age of your ideas' that are crucial, said Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. I was the younger guy in that race.

A police chief was'second-guessed and investigated' and'second-guessed and monitored'.

The shocks struck more than four years after David MacDonald was elected Newton's police chief. COVID-19 was the climax to everything, he said. Then came the fury over race and policeing.

Things got tense in the spring of 2020, as Newton, like many cities in the nation, grappled with Black Lives Matter protests and struggled to come to terms with the reckoning that followed the murder of George Floyd, a Black man. MacDonald backed police reforms. Floyds murder by a white Minneapolis officer was unconscionable, he said, people of color get the short end of the stick too frequently.

However, a tragedy in Newton that came to light in the weeks following Floyd's murder engulfed the city's police and MacDonald in controversy. Five officers had stopped a Black resident, a former Northeastern deputy athletic director named Tim Duncan, at gunpoint while searching for a suspect in a fatal Boston shooting. Duncan spoke publicly about the encounter, but it took more than two weeks and prodding from MacDonald before police filed their field report.

Police officers apologized to Duncan in a statement to Duncan, which described "systemic racism" in society. Mayor Ruthanne Fuller remarked, Newton is not immune," and the Newton Police Department is not immune.

MacDonald, who grew up in Newton and rose across the ranks after joining the department in 1993, was named police chief in 2015 by Setti Warren, the city's first Black mayor, and immediately began building bridges. He established a post of community outreach officer to keep in contact with all areas of the city, and brought in students of color from local colleges like Pine Manor and Lasell as department interns.

MacDonald was dumbfounded when he was being grilled at meetings by council members he believed to be grandstanding while a citizens group called for defunding his department. One council member, citing a move to disband the Camden, N.J., police force, asked why this couldn't be done in Newton. MacDonald was dumbstruck; his department handled about 32,000 police calls a year and received fewer than a dozen civilian complaints.

When MacDonald was being criticized, city officials who offered words of support in private discussions remained silent. While we were being second-guessed and scrutinized, I had nobody publicly coming out and saying anything in my defense, he added.

Fuller told him that she was cutting funds out of a line item in the police budget to fund a reform task force shortly after he became mayor. Later, the mayor told him that she was cutting funds out of a line item in the police budget to fund a reform task force.

That was the last straw for MacDonald, he resigned two days later, ending a contract that would have ended at the conclusion of next year. Mayor Fuller said she was surprised when MacDonald gave his notice, but she conceded, this was a very difficult time to be a police chief.

According to the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association, ninety-eight police chiefs have stepped down over the last year, more than double the number of younger boomers who retired early.

He says he's considering his next step, whether to be in charge of a police department or in some other role, because the former Newton chief spends significant of his time working on projects around the house and assisting his mother and children with chores.

He added, "I have too much training and experience to sit on the sidelines," adding, "I have too much training and experience."

Retection is a transition for boomer bosses: it is a transition.

She subsequently joined Xerox as an executive coaching firm in Somerville for the past two decades as a White House co-host, worked at General Motors with quality guru W. Edward Deming, and helped Xerox shift from an analog to a digital company.

Douglas, a famed artist, scuba diver, and world traveler, snarls from the typical idea of retirement by belting out Monty Python's line "I'm not dead yet." While she started scaling back in 2017, she's re-opened her organization and was as a director on nonprofit boards.

Douglas doesn't give her age, saying that people discriminate, but she identifies herself as a boomer. Retirement is a transition, she said. The fundamental is the capacity to reinvent and reimagine who you are.

She was raised on a pig farm in Bedford, the youngest of six children and the only girl, in which she tended the vegetable garden and assisted with chores, as well as taking piano and dance lessons and spending hours in the library. She was born in Cambridge and she was the youngest of six children and the only girl.

Douglas pursued a broad career, from special assistant to FBI Director William Webster to a Cabinet secretary for consumer affairs under former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld to a Vertex vice president for learning and development, rather than climbing a single ladder.

She added to each role the perspective of an outsider who may discover potential or flaws in policies or strategies. It has to do with how you see the world, she added. It has to do with how you view the environment, she added. You have the ability to see things and figure things out that others dont.

She ultimately got off the corporate merry-go-round and launched her own firm, P.H. Douglas & Associates, coaching senior executives at Fortune 500 firms. Her goal was to assist clients gain clarity and advance. I dont care what the source of the problem is, she said. I dont care what you want to do and how to achieve it.

Douglas has been trying to deviat in recent years to allow herself more time to travel overseas, dividing her time between Somerville and Martha's Vineyard.

Douglas points toward a new era of leadership that is alert and dealing to crucial issues of social and racial justice, based on her wanderlust took a pause during the epidemic. She was eventually given the chance to write a book, Woke Leadership, published earlier this year. Drawing on her own career and leaders, she went on to write a book about her own career and leaders.

Can the boomers develop a path to that era? Douglas believes her generation has left a mixed legacy of greater opportunity and unfinished business. She believes that boomer leaders who are educated have a place to play. They don't have to move aside if they're not old school, she said. They can share their wisdom and give back.

Robert Weisman can be reached at (614). Follow him on Twitter.

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