October 21, 2018

Leading New Generations

I hear all the time about how the young adults of today lack specific traits that have been deemed necessary for success in corporate culture by previous generations. I always find these comments humorous as every past generation finds a way to demean the younger generations for what they perceive as faults. As someone who has worked in traditional corporate culture, operated his own business and now teaches young adults in academia, I tend to favor the younger generations.

Quality leaders should view these differences as opportunities to hone their skillsets and grow as mentors. The goal should not be to force younger generations into a mold of what is deemed acceptable for a work culture. We as leaders should embrace change and mold our workplace to harness this new workforce’s strengths. Great leadership stems from adapting and customizing your leadership style to the individuals whom you lead. Just because a group does not have similar thinking, motivations, or goals does not make them less effective. It means that you as the leader need to find a better approach to connect, communicate and motivate this group.

I think the biggest disconnect with current leadership and the new workforce of today is a lack of motivation for current leadership to change their methods. We can successfully lead a very different and new generation of contributors, but many leaders are missing this opportunity by simply dismissing this new workforce as being entitled or less motivated. The way to harness the talents and abilities of the new generation is to embrace the way they are. Meaningful work, feeling of worth in the company, doing good things for the community, overall social responsibility—these are not new concepts, but they are very important to the emerging young workforce.

Leading this group is different as they have their own individual set of motivations that are usually not related to work. They also work well in much different environments than past generations because they embrace technology and are very savvy with most hardware/software. From a leadership standpoint, I see a wonderful opportunity to build teams of employees that I can simply give tasks to, and they will complete the work. This generation works well having freedom to work from anywhere, and they tend to work more hours than when you confine them to a desk for eight hours. So, as quality leaders should embrace the change and new ways of working because in the end, it will be much more effective to adapt than to fight the change and drive talented young employees away.

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