Generational Diversity & Leadership

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How Different Generations Challenge Leaders

There are four generations in today’s workforce—Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and Gen Ys. Each generational cohort possesses unique values, behaviours and skills based on their experiences of life-defining events.

With Gen Xers establishing themselves in leadership positions, the reality is that today they are managing employees who are older than themselves.  Your next generation of leaders will predominantly come from the Gen X and Gen Y cohorts.

To effectively lead future leaders, it is important that managers understand their own generational identities and how their perceptions of others can influence their leadership style.   Managers should be trained, supported and skilled in creating a work environment that motivates and engages all four generational cohorts, with special emphasis on understanding younger employees’ behaviours and expectations and how they can impact team performance.  The goal is to equip managers with the tools to engage a multigenerational workforce and build a leadership pipeline for your business.  To achieve this goal, generational awareness training is the first step.  The second step is applying tips to effectively lead and manage the next generation through effective coaching, mentoring and performance management.

How Gen Ys Interact with Leadership

Gen Ysare challenging leaders to think differently about how organizations should interact with, and engage,employees.  As Gen Ys are gaining influence and power, they are pushing changes up through the organization.

If Gen Ys respect their leader—which is bestowed based on competency and skill, not just title or seniority—they will be more inclined to take direction from him or her.  For Gen Ys, direction means receiving feedback on how to approach a process / project or task, rather than being told what to do. If conversations with Gen Ys are one-way, top-down and commanding in nature, this cohort is unlikely to fully engage in tasks or be connected to the desired outcome.

Since Gen Ys haven’t generally experienced significant setbacks prior to entering the work world, many organizations find that younger leaders struggle with bouncing back from challenges. This limitation isn’t because Gen Ys lack discipline—it’s because they haven’t been exposed to enough situations that teach them how to overcome barriers and challenges.

Coaching and receiving direction from more senior leaders is needed to provide guidance on how to navigate through setbacks.

Gen Ys seek employment relationships that are win–win, which for them means finding work that has meaning. This cohort will act in accordance with company values and goals, if they believe in them. They will also become frustrated and disengaged if they believe their senior leaders’ behaviours do not match the organization’s promises.

Gen Ys as Leaders

Gen Ys are fairly new entrants into front-line leadership positions. They are generally fair-minded leaders and supportive coaches. Gen Ys are quick to defend their initiatives, uphold company protocols (if they align with their values) and demonstrate productivity.

This cohort is hyper-collaborative with their direct reports, using technology to stay connected on a continuous basis. In this way, they are perceived to be supportive of their teams and  are viewed as part of the team, not outside of it.

Gen Ys work to build consensus and not just issue orders. In general, Gen Ys prefer to focus on training their team members and consider their suggestions when developing solutions.

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