Leadership for the Generations – Discussing The Management Reality of Generational Thinking

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The Australian Institute of Management bring their vision of “Better Managers  and Better Leaders for a Better Society” to life with the research they do and programs they offer that broaden the awareness and build skills into executives and businesses. One such research by Dr Malcolm Johnson is a discussion paper “Beyond Belief : The Management Reality of Generational Thinking” spotlighting the generational debate focusing on young “Gen Y” Leaders and best summed up by :

” In preparing this discussion paper, AIM is saying ‘Enough’s enough’. The Institute believes 
that Australian Managers are more sophisticated that this. If they acknowledge the nonsense of running a business by the daily star signs then managing a workforce according to generation stereotype is no less problematic”
My reading of the the research found that the concept of leading people on the basis of the Generation perception was ludicrous and that all leaders should lead people individually and based on the qualities and capabilities of the individual. In particularly the following insights caught my attention

  • Respect – Everyone wants respect.
  • Values – Our values guide motivations of the individual
  • Motivation – People are motivated by work/cause/interests that appeal to them.
  • Commitment – Where once commitment was measured simply by the hours worked, challenges now exist as to output and outcomes.
  • Entitlement – Most people want to do the best they can. Young managers want to excel in the quickest time possible and at this can be interpreted as arrogance of entitlement.
  • Communication – Behaviour more than language is the loudest part of communication. The technology of today presents challenges to traditional methods but the importance on senior management to model the required behaviours.
  • Work/life balance – Maybe a better way is to look at work/life or life/work integration.
  • Retention – Careers evolve over time and the notion of loyalty to an employer is dying with a greater focus of meaning and purpose for the executive.

Dr Johnson concludes the report with

“We conclude that a focus on the individual rather that the stereotype will accelerate the true potential of young managers as they develop the perspectives and practices that matter”

The report focused on the development of our young leaders, and for those charged with the mentoring and development of them to lead them as individuals, not based on a stereotype of their relevant generation perception. And I am in 100% agreement.

Attempting to lead people based on a perception and stereotype is fraught with danger with the threat of disengagement and lack of growth being negative outcomes of such practices. Leadership isn’t easy and in most cases not a natural thing for everybody. Building true leadership comes from a desire to serve people and this is highlighted by this report and so many times from history. Recommendations of quality individual conversations and discussions are referenced often and this is simply the mark of better leadership. One rule for all, may work in some situations for low-skilled employees or routine work, but to truly engage the best qualities of your people, the need is clear to bring them in as an individual, add value and development to them and watch them blossom.

In our Free 10 Day Leadership Training” (get it here)  we explore some of the traits that great leaders have. While not exhaustive research, we find similarities between the conclusions from the Beyond Belief research and our beliefs in the make-up of great leaders. We state in the book that a great leader:

  •  Has integrity. People have to believe that you are pursuing your dream because it’s the right thing to do, not just because you are ego driven.
  • Is a people person. Understands the differences that make people unique and is able to use those individual skills to achieve the goal.
  • Is positive. A leader encourages and rewards people and makes you want to do it and do it right. A leader is not a negative person and doesn’t waste time and effort telling everyone what they’re doing wrong.

The research validates theses beliefs and of our values-based leadership coaching programs.. Great Leaders always build trust and rapport with their people, find ways and means to add meaningful development and inspire them into action and their achievement of results. Great leaders do not use a cookie-cutter approach to people or teams based on generalizations and perceptions.  They demonstrate true care for their people and they add value to them by serving them.

The thought I leave you all with is this.

Fads come and fads go, but the basic values-based principles of leadership hold true after many years. What sort of leader are you? One enslaved by the latest and the greatest or the one founded on solid principles with the view to keep growing and learning. Leading by perception of the difference of the Generational Stereotype is simply a fad! Treat people as individuals, acknowledge and welcome their uniqueness and watch them blossom and grow.

Tony Curl
Leadership, Life and Style

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Tony Curl

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