I recently listened to a speaker talk about the challenges manufacturers are having filling jobs vacated by retiring Veterans and Boomers. They cannot hire young people, and when they are hired, they leave after a short period of time. The situation has become mission critical to the organizations and to community sustainability.
I asked, “Why do you think that is?” She responded, “Leadership quality. Young people will not work in an environment where they are not given a voice.” I knew before I asked what the answer was, but I wanted the audience to hear from her.
The dominant style of leadership today, in most organizations and communities, is based on Industrial Age leadership methods, which uses “control, power, micro-managing, and fear-based tactics” to get people to perform. Some would call it, “My way or the highway.” Industrial age leadership was designed for managers to lead machines and people to meet production goals. People were told what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. They had and still have no voices. They are automatons.
I heard someone recently say, “In most organizations, people are nothing more than serfs.” A “serf” is a “slave.” A slave has no voice. He or she is bound by the rules of the master (the employer/manager) and has no say in the rules of engagement, accountabilities, processes, or work environment. An employee serf shows up, symbolically punches a clock, and exits as soon as his or her “shift” is over. There’s no loyalty. It’s just a job. A means to acquire the finances necessary to take care of oneself and one’s family!
People in such an environment are far from being inspired. They are oppressed. The only difference in a “serf” and an “employee” in such an environment is that the “employee” can quit, leaving you with a job that needs to be filled, and then a new employee to train.
Young people, the Gen Xers and Gen Ys, have had access to the world via technology from a very young age, and as a result, have been able to express themselves freely nearly since birth. They value and thrive on free-expression, collaboration, creativity, innovation, individualism, and engagement. They want to be involved in decision making and be considered part of the team. They want to learn and grow. They want to work in a team-oriented environment where everyone feels safe speaking their minds, collaborating, and helping each other succeed. Far from an Industrial Age leadership culture!
Industrial-age leadership stifles collaboration and creativity. It literally imprisons people’s ideas and thoughts, and is destructive to the human spirit. Young people are hired, and they immediately exit because they refuse to work in such an environment.
Do not imprison innovation and creativity in old-world leadership of control and power and who gets the credit. Give people a voice so they can generate new ideas and solve problems. Help people to learn and grow. Maximize people’s potential.
Start by focusing on leadership quality and developing a culture that sustains it. The culture needs to be one in which people are respected as individuals, with accountabilities to hold “all people” accountable for tolerance and respect for people’s uniqueness.
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