The X factor: Generation X leadership in early 21st century American community colleges

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Goben, Allen Floyd

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A gap exists in the literature between generational studies and community college leadership studies. Concurrently, there is a wave of retirements occurring in American community colleges. The retirement phase is projected to continue, at least, throughout the first decade of the 21st Century. Thus, generational studies are becoming more and more pertinent to community college districts. Since the social age cohort commonly referred to as Generation X is at the appropriate age/experience/education level to fill many vacancies as elder peers retire, this study was focused on opening a dialogue about how Xers might like to lead or be led- and how those preferences are likely to fit with selected established and emerging leadership theories. The goal of the research is to encourage conversation about successful integration of Xers into community college leadership roles. Therefore, the qualitative study is best described as a window through which Xers might be viewed in the specific context of early 21st Century American community college leadership. Generalization of the findings is left up to the reader to determine due to the structure, scope, and context of the study. However, clues did emerge that may be useful in understanding Generation X dynamics and possible implications of an Xer plurality in community colleges. A potential blueprint is offered for successful interaction with Xers combining knowledge from extensive Generation X literature review, a literary review of selected leadership theories, interviews with Xers identified as talented Generation X community college administrators, and the researcher’s observations of Xers both within the study context and from a lifetime of experiences as an Xer.