We recognize that managing the newer generations, who will make up the majority of the workforce by 2020, requires new skills and a different leadership style. In part this is because we now live and work in what’s become known as a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world. It’s also true that the newer generations respond better to a modern, rather than traditional, leadership style and employers need to ensure they can provide this.
For example, leadership is becoming much more democratic. For previous generations of employees, leadership was likely to be the reward for a privileged few. These days, successful, particularly global, organizations, are unlikely to be led by just one leader. In fact, the concept of a single leader – typically the CEO or Chairman - as chief representative of a brand, whether a product, a service or a cause – is rapidly becoming outdated. In the future, two or more leaders, possibly with diverse functions across the organization, will fulfill the leadership function. In practice, this could mean that they co-lead or lead in their own areas of expertise while upholding the organization’s vision, mission and values.
Who are the next generation leaders?
High-calibre leaders are in increasingly short supply and forward-thinking organizations will ensure they identify and cultivate individuals with leadership potential, regardless of the stage in their career at which they join an organization. Important qualities for next generation leaders include:
- Versatility, adaptability, innovative thinking, flexibility, humility and passion
- The ability to navigate and communicate through the Internet and digital /social media with ease
- Multi-cultural and multi-generational awareness and sensitivity, commitment to embracing diversity in the workforce and community
- Being approachable and people-oriented, being authentic, empathetic and focusing on other people rather than themselves.
- Having a comprehensive understanding of the business and the world and being able to see the big picture
- Having excellent spoken and written communication skills plus the ability to influence, persuade and negotiate
- Being entrepreneurial in spirit and willing to be an agent of change.
- Being courageous and unafraid of making difficult, unpopular decisions, but with the ability to be prudent when necessary
Leaders of the next generation must also be able to help build high performing teams and cultivate a coaching culture. This ensures the employer organization can achieve maximum productivity and profitability and also enhance the employer’s brand, which will assist in attracting, recruiting, engaging and retaining high potential talent in the future.
How to develop/grow your new leaders?
Leadership traits and potential can be identified from very early on in someone’s career and that it should be a priority to develop and retain these people within an organization. Employees with leadership potential can be developed through formal and informal programs. For example, they can be encouraged to take on project leadership or act as informal leaders for activities outside the organization’s core business operations, such as CSR.
Given the complex global environment, new generation leaders must be altruistic and possess a high degree of integrity. They must also be able to coach, mentor and lead a diverse team comprised of Gen Y and Millennials from a range of cultures and backgrounds, plus more senior people who remain in the workforce as advisors, consultants or experts in their fields. A report from McKinsey & Company published earlier this year, shows being supportive and seeking different perspectives are among the four kinds of behavior that account for 89 per cent of leadership effectiveness. So organizations would also be wise to ensure their leadership teams reflect the diversity that is the new normal in today’s workplaces.
Certainly the demands on next generation leaders are high. A broad range of sophisticated traits and capabilities is required, plus the motivation to succeed and the desire to pass on essential skills and knowledge to the generations that are coming through.
Let’s aim high…. Be visionary….
To close, I’d like to share a quote from management expert Peter Drucker who said: ‘Leadership is not magnetic personality – that can just as well be a glib tongue. It is not making friends and influencing people – that is flattery. Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to higher sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.’