Robert J. Thomas and I met in early fall of 1999 determined to write a book about how generational differences could impact leadership behavior. Would successful young leaders, 30 years old—raised after the Depression and World War II—hold divergent attitudes and values that would distinguish them from successful leaders 40 to 60 years older?
The next three years were an odyssey full of fun, frustration, and surprises: identifying and interviewing terrific leaders in these two age groups who were willing to spend hours with us, videotaping included. We did pretty well at that. Among the geezers were Robert Galvin, the former CEO of Motorola; Frank Gehry, the world-famous architect; Frances Hesselbein, the former CEO of the Girl Scouts of America; and John Wooden, the legendary UCLA basketball coach. Our geeks did pretty well for themselves, too, some of them in their early twenties: Sky Dayton, founder of EarthLink and Boingo Wireless; Steve Chen, co-founder of Embark.com.; and Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach for America.