Listen, here's how you become a great leader

Can your organisation stand the test of time? What is Servant Leadership? How can we collaborate across generations?


Listen, here's how you become a great leader




Jonne Frankena

Can your organisation stand the test of time? What is Servant Leadership? How can we collaborate across generations?

A story about Boomers and Zoomers


Kevin and myself were at Fondsevent recently, the largest event for the Asset Management industry in The Netherlands. We saw many familiar faces and listened to some great talks.

But one stood out in particular.

It was by trend-watcher and futurist Richard van Hooijdonk.

He spoke about the future of the world and the future organisations specifically. About a new kind of leadership and collaboration between generations. Or as we like to call it: Boomers and Zoomers.

Richard van Hooijdonk. Photo ©

What's a Boomer, anyway?

You have probably heard of the word 'Boomer' before. Maybe you've even been called one.

Originally referring to the Baby Boomer generation, nowadays the word is used by young people to describe anyone older than them.

When one of your friends can't figure out how to take a screenshot on their phone, they might be called a Boomer. [1]

The word became even more known when 25-year-old New Zealand MP Chloë Swarbrick went viral.

After a heckler interrupted her speech on climate change in parliament, she responded with "OK Boomer" as she continued her speech. [2]

So, Zoomers?

The term 'Zoomer' has nothing to do with the video conferencing platform that got popular during the pandemic.

A Zoomer refers to a member of Generation Z. It is a play of the term Boomer, but also about the fast-paced upbringings that Gen Z have, due to advances in technology and an interconnected, global culture. [3]

If your nephew or niece play Fortnite and make TikTok videos, they are probably Zoomers.

Rising Tensions?

Now, naming generations and assigning them certain characteristics is one thing. But to some, a form of tension might exist between those generations, as demonstrated by the video of the New Zealand parliament.

Zoomers might think the world they are inheriting isn't in the greatest shape. They feel like they were dealt a bad hand. They point at rising global issues such as climate change and inequality.

Or the current antics of the (Dutch) housing market.

Boomers on the other hand might argue they have done the best they could with the knowledge available at the time. And that our wealth and quality of life has never been so high.

Whatever your take on it might be, it is clear that tension between generations is as old as mankind. The young can't wait to be in charge. The older generations, who have already waited their turn, feel that it makes sense that they're 'in charge' now.

It just might be more vocal and visible today thanks to social media.

What we do know is that pointing fingers won't get us anywhere.

The challenges of today and tomorrow are large, but not insurmountable, if we work together, across all generations

And that was exactly what Richard van Hooijdonk proposed in his inspiring talk at Fondsevent.

The survival of your organisation

Richard spoke about many topics, compressing his usual one-hour-long talk into a 15 minutes keynote.

Topics he touched upon were:

  • Radical technological change, both in general and for the investment world
  • The ethics of technological change
  • The organisation of the future

That last topic I personally found most eye-opening. Richard posed an interesting question, wondering:

How can we make sure organisations still exist in 10 years?

The lifespan of companies in shortening.

In 1965, a company in the S&P 500 Index would stay there for 33 years on average.

In 1990, this average had gone down to 20 years.

By 2026, it is predicted to be just 14 years. [4]

If you're in a leadership role, and you want your company still to exist over the following years, this is what you should do, according to Richard:

You should share your leadership role with a 24-year-old. Have them join you and do the job together.

Richard at Fondsevent showing shared leadership. Photo © Fondsevent

So, the senior generation should share the leadership role with the younger generation. But why?

Those of the Millennial or Gen Z generation will know how to prepare for the world of tomorrow as they are on the cutting edge of what is being developed today. They breathe technology, as they have never lived in a world without.

The more senior generations have the experience, the network and the wisdom to achieve real change in the organisation and thus in the world.

So, the role of leaders is changing, from setting a vision and leading to listening and serving.

A new type of leader emerges.

The servant leader.

What is a servant leader?

Servant leadership is a leadership philosophy in which the goal of the leader is mainly to serve and empower their team.

As opposed to a traditional leader who mainly focuses on the thriving of their company or organisation. [5]

Instead of people working to serve the leader, the servant leader exists to serve the people.

When leaders change their mindset and serve, they stand to benefit just as much as their employees: the employees acquire personal growth and the organisation grows due to employees growing their commitment and engagement.

And when both the employees and the company grows, we can confidently say that the servant leader has done their job well.

Why now?

Servant leadership is not new. It was first founded by Robert K. Greenleaf in 1970 in his first essay, entitled "The Servant As Leader". [6]

A 2002 study by Sen Sendjaya and James C Sarros already found that "servant leadership is being practised in some of the top-ranking companies, and these companies are highly ranked because of their leadership style and following." [5].

Examples of companies that apply servant leadership are Marriott International, Nordstrom and Starbucks. [7]

So why does this style of leadership seem to be making its comeback now?

And why do trend-watchers and futurists like Richard talk about it (again)?

I think the reason is that the world is a fundamentally different place now. Change is not only the only constant but also massively accelerating.

From an Era of Change to a Change of Era, if you will.

Today, a company has to change within 4 years.

The leaders of the past formulated a vision and lead their teams to execute on that.

But in the past, a company could resist change for 70 years and still be in business.

Today, a company has to change within 4 years, according to Van Hooijdonk.

Companies have to pivot, adapt and embrace the change needed to face this rapidly changing world. Or risk 'being disrupted' and potentially going out of business.

Adapt or die

A great example is working from home, or working remotely, what most of us have been doing during the pandemic.

As the world slowly seems to go back to "normal" (whatever that means), many companies are slowly opening their offices again and asking their workforce to show up again, at least for some days per week.

Most Zoomers (and Boomers!) I know have come to love the freedom that remote working brings, and are not keen on giving it up.

A recent survey showed that

39% of people would consider quitting if their bosses weren't flexible about them working from home.

Half of those were Millennials and Gen Z. [8]

A remote-work policy will be a differentiator when you're looking to attract talent. It will have a large impact on employee satisfaction and retention.

Imposing rules top-down, won't work consistently anymore in today's day and age.

That's why we require a new kind of leader. Not one that formulates a vision and leads their teams to execute it. Or one that imposes rules without any consultation.

The leader of the future listens first. They speak last.

As Richard said, the leader of the future is the one that asks the best questions.

Are you ready for the future? Are you ready to listen?

Thank you for reading!

CORE is a team full of young talent and the industry experience to match. We see ourselves as a great partner for any firm that wants to innovate, stay ahead of the game and shape the future.

Whether you have an interesting challenge or simply want to talk, we're happy to grab a coffee or pick up the phone. We're excited to see what this collaboration of generations can achieve together.

I'm curious to hear your thoughts on Boomers, Zoomers & Servant Leadership. Don't hesitate to send me a message at


This blog post expresses the sole opinion of its author, Jonne Frankena. None of the content has been condoned by Richard van Hooijdonk, Greenleaf or Fondsevent. This blog post has been composed by writing from personal memory and publicly available sources as mentioned below. You can visit Richard's website here, the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership here and Fondsevent here.


[1] Urban Dictionary. (2020). Urban Dictionary: boomer.
[2] NBC News. (2019, November 7). ‘OK Boomer’: Watch New Zealand Lawmaker’s Parliamentary Put Down | NBC News. YouTube.
[3] Urban Dictionary. (2018). Urban Dictionary: Zoomer.
[4] Perry, M. J. (2021, June 3). Only 52 US companies have been on the Fortune 500 since 1955, thanks to the ‘creative destruction’ that fuels economic prosperity. AEI.Org.
[5] Servant Leadership: Its Origin, Development, and Application in Organizations". Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies.
[6] About Us page. History.
[7] Sivasubramaniam, J. (2017). 5 Companies That Embrace Servant Leadership. Berret-Koelher Publishers.
[8] Business Insider. (2021, June 23). Nearly 40% of workers would consider quitting if their bosses made them return to the office full time, a new survey shows.

This content is for informational purposes only, you should not construe any such information or other material as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice. Nothing contained in this Post constitutes a solicitation, recommendation, endorsement, or offer by CORE to buy or sell any securities or other financial instruments in this or in in any other jurisdiction in which such solicitation or offer would be unlawful under the securities laws of such jurisdiction.

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