+44(0) 113 322 9234

The Age of Entrepreneurs and Leaders

According to famed developmental psychologist Erik Erikson, as we grow older, hunger for meaning animates us, making us more alive. His theory explains that each healthy human passes through eight stages of development from infancy to adulthood. The seventh stage of development typically takes places between the ages 40-64 and centres around generativity, a period not of stagnation, but of productivity and creativity, including a strong commitment to mentoring and shoring up the next generation. Individuals in this developmental stage are supremely motivated to generate value, not just for themselves, but for others, asking the question: What can I do to make my life really count?

The average age of a successful entrepreneur in high-growth industries such as computers, health care, and aerospace is 40. Twice as many successful entrepreneurs are over 50 as under 25. The vast majority — 75 percent — have more than six years of industry experience and half have more than 10 years when they create their startup. Meanwhile, data from the Kauffman Foundation indicates the highest rate of entrepreneurship in America has shifted to the 55-64 age group, with people over 55 almost twice as likely to found successful companies than those between 20 and 34.
The over-40 crowd is also more likely to do work that matters not just for themselves, but also future generations. For example, Jacki Zehner, 47, the youngest woman to become a partner at Goldman Sachs, is pouring her post-forty life into philanthropy on behalf of women and girls as CEO of Women Moving Millions. Carol Fox, 69, has devoted her golden years to the China-U.S. Philanthropy project, teaching Chinese billionaires how to extend their circle of caring beyond family. While photojournalist Paola Gianturco, 73, igniting an activist grandmother movement, inspiring grandmothers across the world to become involved in education, health and human rights. In learning about these inspiring individuals, it's easy to see why research indicates that a 55-year-old and even a 65-year-old have more innovation potential than a 25-year-old: innovators really do get better with age.
Just as larger businesses provide economic stability to society in the form of higher pay, better medical care, and retirement, experienced workers provide intellectual and emotional ballast in the workplace including innovation expertise. Think about it — disruptive innovation is about playing where no one wants to play (low-end), or has thought of playing (new market). As individuals move into Erikson's seventh developmental stage, creating something new isn't just a "nice thing to do" — it is a psychological imperative. The urge to create, to generate a life that counts impels people to innovate, even when it's lonely and scary. Data notwithstanding, some of the companies among us will continue allow these individuals to fall into the arms of independent work, if we don't give them the boot first. The smart companies — and my money is on you — will harness this hunger of the underserved, ready-to-serve corp of talent, and upend the competition.

For more information about Executive Coaching and Menoring with Xenonex, contact Suzanna Prout on 01423 876371 or email liz.hines@xenonex.co.uk
Suzanna Prout

(Taken from an article by Whitney Johnson)