The most dangerous leadership myth is that the leaders are born 

With increasing competition for talent in the workplace, more generations are now required to work side-by-side, aiming to attract, retain and sell to customers from all generations. Many companies are facing the challenge of a multi-generational workforce that needs to be led and managed with the aim to create high-performing, results driven teams. With different perspectives, traits and motivators for each generation, it is a common pitfall for business leaders and managers to adopt their leadership style to their own generation, rather than considering how to lead a multigenerational workforce, including the millennial one.  

 

However, with three (or sometimes even four) unique generations in the workplace – Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y – differences in approaches to work might adversely impact business performance. Each generation has unique attitudes, values and skills based on their experiences that bond members together into generational cohorts in the workplace, where employee motivation, loyalty, and engagement are impacted by generational work attitudes and values, thus are being translated into characteristics and skills on job which impact creativity, innovation and team work.

 

A research conducted by the Swiss biologist and cognitive developmental psychologist Jean Piaget, has identified four developmental stages, culminating in the Formal Operations stage (age 11-15), an age range that is very important because children, developmentally and hormonally are able to see, understand and remember what happens in the world around them. The impact of key national and global events and trends during this critical phase of cognitive development influences the way we view the world and partially defines what we become as adults. Major events like wars, economic growth or decline, protests, acts of terror, breakthroughs in technology, changes in communication and parenting styles that occur in teen years affect values, behaviors, and beliefs that account for the differences between generations and formulate each generation’s perspective on critical business issues as leadership, communication, problem solving, and decision making.

 

One of the most accepted definitions refers to a generation as “a group of people or cohorts who share birth years and experiences as they move through time together”, indicating that generational units or cohorts tend to possess a set of common life experiences (reasonably stable during their lives) and share common views, values, and attitudes.  

Precise age ranges and names for each generation may vary, yet it is generally agreed that there are four distinct generations in the workforce:

• Matures or Traditionals – born between 1909 and 1945,

• Boomers or Baby Boomers– born between 1946 and 1964,

• Generation X or Xers – born between 1965 and 1979,

• Generation Y, Millennials, or Next Generation – born 1980 or later.

 

Despite the concern whether generational theory is applicable globally (especially since only a few studies have focused on Non-American Millennials’) it must be noted that global trends in recent decades, have dominated internet, mass media, and social media particularly in urban, developed areas. For that reason, younger persons are more likely to fit the generational profile.

In general Millennials, including European ones: 

-Are considered “digital natives” who are information fluent and connected 24/7

-Have the ability to multitask and engage in multiple activities

-Expect speed and change and have low tolerance for things that make “no sense” to them

-Appreciate teamwork and collaborative efforts

-Are responsive to guidance and mentorship

-Value loyalty (both ways) and pursue the opportunity to grow and learn new things 

 

The findings of an exploratory study recently conducted as an attempt to examine Greek Millennials suggest that (alongside their European counterparts) they value interesting work, appreciation for a job well done, and a work environment that is enjoyable. They also seek opportunities for advancement and promotion within a company and managerial attention, not in the way the boomers collaborate with them, but as a way to make sure they are on the right path to personally move ahead. 

 

Investing time to get to know Millennials and how they operate as employees will benefit Greek companies and will lead to the creation of a positive working environment with high engagement and will eliminate the risks of disagreeable conflicts and unmotivated employees with decreased morale. In future newsletters, the topic of Millennials characteristics will be further explored together with insights and practices on leading this generation. 

  

References:

  • AARP, Leading a Multigenerational Workforce
  • A Scholarly Investigation of Generational Workforce Differences: Debunking the Myths, Korn Ferry International.
  • International Journal of Global Business, 8 (1), 62-92, June 2015

 

The writer's short bio:

Stamatis Tsapralis is Partner at Linkage Greece. He is a certified sales trainer from AMS Learning on Professional Selling Skills system and from Integrity Solutions on Integrity Selling and Integrity Coaching. He has also been accredited facilitator by Linkage Inc. on Essential Management Essential Coaching and Negotiation Skills workshops. He possesses extensive experience in Management, Leadership and Sales and has been instrumental in developing Leaders, Managers and Sales Exectives and in the management and coaching of high performance teams.

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