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    May 28, 2024

    The Next Generation of Leadership

    Millennials and some of the Generation Z are now moving into leadership roles in many of our organizations. Though there are challenges to now having as many as five generations in the workplace, these leaders bring new insights, vision, and passion that can help our organizations not just grow but thrive.

    Millennial leaders often bring a fresh, less formal perspective to our organizations. In general, they feel more comfortable with flat organizational structures. They like to create more positive work cultures, build strong relationships, and have an emphasis on caring for the whole person.

    The Generation Z style of leadership has been described as servant leadership. Gen Z leaders often place a strong emphasis on social and environmental responsibility. They are more likely to advocate for sustainable practices and social justice causes within their organizations. This commitment to a greater purpose can inspire their teams and attract like-minded talent.

    Many older employees were brought up in a work environment that was more “command and control.” Some of these leaders who may have been working for decades are fine with being handed tasks and projects without understanding all the whys behind what they are asked to do. They were often in work cultures where younger employees did not have a lot of voice or the opportunity for real input. They may feel that newer leaders don’t have the right to have the same level of influence as they do. Younger leaders are also more likely to want to understand the connection to purpose, how the company’s products and services not only sell but the impact they will have on our wider community.  

    Because of these differences, it can be challenging for more established leaders to understand how to work collaboratively when the style of leadership these younger leaders have may make them feel uncomfortable.  However, integrating leadership styles can greatly benefit the company and build a strong pipeline for better leadership in the future.

    One of the obvious benefits is that younger leaders are tech natives. Their understanding of multiple types of technology for communication and innovation is part of how they grew up.  Allowing them to share that knowledge is a way to give them a voice. They may see opportunities or challenges in new technologies that a company may be thinking of implementing in a different way than older leaders.

    Moving towards leadership that is open about the whys behind what the company is doing can also help everyone in the organization.  In a very fast-paced world, taking the time to discuss the whys can lead to better execution of projects.  It is an opportunity for these newer leaders to ask more questions, which could potentially identify alternative ways or more innovative ways of providing products and services.  It also creates more connection to what the company is trying to achieve for all employees.

    Both Millennial and Gen Z leaders highly value collaboration and inclusivity. They were raised in an increasingly diverse world and recognize the value of a variety of perspectives. Though Millennial and Gen Z leaders are not all alike, they are usually more open than Boomers or Gen Xers to seeking input, ideas, and feedback about their leadership styles from their teams. That can make them better leaders in the long run.

    Instead of dictating and using the older “command and control” leadership style, the younger leader tends to encourage group alignment, participation, and engagement. Typically, this approach not only results in better decision-making but also promotes a more positive, psychologically safe, and supportive work environment.

    As your organization looks to develop the next generation of leaders, it is good to understand the benefits they bring, address some of the differences between different generations of leaders, and move towards a leadership approach that builds on the strengths these newer leaders bring.  By recognizing their strengths, giving them a voice, and developing them, they will be more likely to feel connected to your company’s purpose.

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