While conducting a workshop, a participant asked the question, “Do you think leadership style preferences will go full circle back to Boomer-preferred leadership styles with Gen Zs or now known as Plurals—those born 1997 and after?”
The discussion revolved around leadership style preferences and that the younger generations will not tolerate authoritative style leadership traits dominant and oft-preferred by the Veteran and Boomer regime (Industrial Age leadership styles still dominant today). Younger generations prefer a more collaborative, autonomous style of leadership.
The question was asked in regards to Gen Xers and that they were often neglected by their work-a-holic Boomer parents who “lived to work,” instead of “worked to live” as the younger generations do. Because Gen Xers most-often lacked the maternal nurturing and there was so much chaos in their lives, will they want something different for their children? Will this drive a change to accountability and, ultimately, to a leadership style preference shift back to the authoritative, top-down style of leadership?
In my observations, Gen Xers want more stability in their lives and for their families. But, digital impact will continue to drive change, including leadership style preferences. Beginning with Gen X and becoming dominant with Gen Y, digital communications has become the dominant and preferred style of communications. With Gen Ys and even more so with the Plurals, socialization occurs through digital devices and platforms, i.e. social media, texting, etc. They have had nearly since birth the freedom to socialize with the world with a few clicks from a wireless device. They do not like to “talk” on the telephone, even when in the same proximity as the people they are “talking” to. Plurals are said to be the most social group of people in history, yet they socialize almost completely via digital devices.
Younger generations have had control of and access to the world nearly since birth through the Internet. They live in a very autonomous world—a world where they have had a “voice” nearly since birth. As a result, they like freedom of expression and autonomy. Top down leadership style slows everything down, whereas a highly collaborative, team-oriented work environment with the right kind of accountabilities and culture allows for things to get done more quickly. Constant motion!
So, to all those who think this is a passing phase, it is not. Digital impact will continue to evolve at a very rapid pace, and it will continue to drive individual preferences and values, of which leadership style preferences is only one. If we bury our heads in the sand because we are in a state of denial, or we “just don’t want to deal with it right now,” we will be in for a rude awakening. By then, we may not be able to recover quickly enough for our organizations or communities to succeed. Digital impact!
The Plurals it is believed will rebel against society as the Boomers did. However, digital impact has and will continue to shape their preferences and values. They know no diversity as their friends are from all walks of life and from anywhere around the world—“friends” they often have never met face-to-face. Digital socialization!
In my book 4 Generations @ Work, results of years of research which continues today, I state that the workplace will become characterized by increasing levels of heterogeneity, along with all those issues that result from a more diverse work force—if not understood and managed accordingly. A Fortune 500 CEO recently said “…this has occurred much faster than people ever thought it would. We are living in it.” And, he is right. We are living in it and those who have not begun the process of changing the culture to fit the needs of the most diverse work force in history is already way behind. Can these organizations and communities catch up?
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