Different Leadership

Much has been written about the differences in various generational groups. Especially the vast differences when it comes to leading Millennials. 


But new information has recently come to light that reveals some surprising insights into who this mysterious demographic actually is. As it turns out, they are people! And they are people who have more in common with other age groups than you might think. 


If you’re leading Millennials it might be good if you knew something about them, something that’s actually true. 


Millennials now make up the largest generation in the workforce. They are beginning to assume leadership roles of their own within organizations. Their impact grows by the day. 


Millennials’ goals are surprisingly similar to older generations. 25% want to make a positive impact on their organization verses 23% of Boomers. 22% of Millennials want to help solve social and environmental challenges vs 24% of Boomers.


Most older generations assume that Millennials want to do everything online yet when surveyed Millennials say their top three preferences for learning new skills at work are physical, not virtual. They would prefer to attend a third-party sponsored conference, attend in-person classroom training or work alongside knowledgeable colleagues. 


Everybody knows that Millennials want constant acclaim and they think everyone on the team should get a trophy. Everybody knows that except Millennials. 


The facts say that 35% of Millennials simply want fair and ethical treatment. 35% want to work in a transparent environment where relevant information is willingly shared and 29% want to work in an environment where their actual accomplishments are recognized. That sounds an awful lot like Boomers to me!


You need to be careful when investing in Millennials because they are more likely to jump ship if a position doesn’t fulfill their needs, right? Well, not exactly. 


Employees of each generation share the same reasons for changing organizations. 47% of Gen X’ers leave a company for more money or a more creative environment. That number is 42% for Boomers and …. are you ready for it…. 42% for Millennials. 


There are obviously differences between the generations but there always has been. This is nothing new. As a leader you must educate yourself on what those differences mean to your organization and understand how you can actually use those differences to build a stronger team. You must also realize that overall, there are more commonalities than differences.


Millennials aren’t lazy, they aren’t disloyal, they aren’t any needier when it comes to recognition than any other age group. If you focus on the differences between groups of people you’ll find them. If you view “different” as bad it will be bad, if you view different as an opportunity then that’s what it will be.


While you should be aware of the differences between generations what you really need to be aware of are the differences within the generations. Lumping all Millennials into one group and trying to lead every member of that group the same way is a huge mistake. Just as it would be to lead every member of any generation exactly the same. 


You cannot lead everyone the same because everyone is different…even within generational groups. You need different leadership for different people.


The most effective leaders talk with their people often enough to truly understand their differences, they ask questions until they grasp what makes each person unique. Then they lead them in such as way as to help them succeed. 

It’s a lot of work to lead everyone differently but it’s really the only way to lead authentically. If your people aren’t worth the time it takes to truly get to know them then I’m sorry to say that you may not have time to lead. 

Leadership for the Ages – Part Four of Some

No generation has a monopoly on what’s right. It would behove leaders from every generation to keep that in mind. 

The generation I call “The Changers,” the ones born between 1964 and 1980, were shaped by the fall of the Berlin Wall, Watergate, Desert Storm, the energy crisis, technology, and the internet. As the first generation of kids where both parents were likely to work they are more independent than the generations before them. They have seen their parents down-sized, right-sized and let go after sacrificing everything for their company. They’re less loyal to their employers and expect to change jobs. Sometimes often.

They expect fast gratification, and they’re technically savvy. They need feedback and recognition, but don’t want a lot of rules. The “Changers” want flexibility and freedom at work. They’ve seen a ton of corporate and political corruption, which has left them pretty skeptical. While for a time “The Middles” generation didn’t trust anyone over 30, this generation has some issues trusting anyone over 50. 

Because “Changers” naturally place a lower priority on work, many leaders from the “Middles” generation think that these workers are not as dedicated. There is no real evidence of that, in fact, the research would simply show they are dedicated differently. They are more willing to take on challenges and are known to be highly adaptive to job instability in the post-downsizing era.

They were also the first generation to grow up with technology. That seems to be why this generation cares more about productivity and less about the number of hours spent on the job. Because they best understand how to maximize and leverage the new technology, they value a balanced lifestyle and equality on the job.

This generation isn’t better or worse than the ones that came before. They aren’t better workers or worse. They are just different. Their life experiences have provided them with a different set of values. 

These different values can cause conflict. When one generation attempts to lead another their value systems influence and guide their leadership style. The values they have built throughout their lives can make it tough to be objective. As humans, we are biased towards our own values, that isn’t right or wrong, it’s just the way it is.

As a leader, when conflict does arise, you need to put your biases aside. So if a “Middle” and a “Changer” are having conflicts with each other, and you’re a “Middle” leader, you can’t naturally side with your fellow “Middler,” just because you share similar values. You need to be objective, understand the differing values of each person involved, and lead according to the circumstances and the people involved.

Leaders adjust, the great ones have different “styles” and methods. Just remember, leaders adjust themselves, not rules or principles. 

If you’re going to lead cross generationally then you need to understand this: if you’re in a conflict with someone from a different generation it’s very possible that they are not fighting you. It might be you fighting them. You’re trying to change their values, trying to make them into something or someone that they simply can’t be. It’s a fight that Authentic Servant Leaders know they cannot and should not win. 

Improve your leadership by using who and what your people are to their advantage and to yours. You’ll grow, they will grow and your organization will grow as well.