“Leader” is a loaded word.Each generation defines it differently.
If you work with the Silent Generation, the ghost of the “leader as commander” lingers in the air. For Silents, leadership was based on role. In the business world, executives led like generals.If you work in a traditional industry like law, medicine, accounting or government, you'll encounter this leadership model.
Tips for Leading in Highly Traditional Settings
- Decide when to simply obey orders and when to push back. Pick your battles.
- Remember that the org chart only tells half the story. The people who actually lead and influence may not be at the top.
- Be sure to cite authority when you make an argument.
- Respect rank. Even as you effect change through informal networks, run ideas and decisions up the traditional chain of command. Using both methods will get better results.
Booms grew up during a time of high idealism and social change—the peace movement, the women’s movement, the Civil Rights movement. Boomers were drawn to visionary leaders with grand dreams. Try Gandhi, John Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Cesar Chavez. Later, Boomers took that idealism and drove it into their work. They still look for business leaders who can articulate vision or dream (sometimes a dream of profits, excellence or success).
Tips for Leading Baby Boomers
- Voice a vision. That may feel unnatural to you, but if will catch the ear of Boomers. Your work makes the lives of people easier in some way; say so when dealing with Boomers. To them, that’s the voice of leadership.
- Stress personal potential. People who look to visionary leaders want to see themselves and their lives in epic terms. Be sure to recognize the achievements of Boomers to date, and assume they are still growing, with new successes still on the horizon.
Gen X grew up during economic uncertainty, and with 24/7 news coverage. CNN servied up every scandal, every set of cooked books, every economic bubble that cost people their jobs and their dreams.
During this era, leadership began to look like proficiency. Real leaders simply got the job done without fuss, bother and bombast.
Tips for Leading Gen X
- Base your proposals on efficiency, data and results.
- Practice radical transparency. Gen X looks to leaders who deliver the whole truth, warts and all. When you need to influence or sell to Gen X, supply lots of information and answer all questions candidly. Never sugarcoat anything.
- Finally, remember that Xers were born with an extra independence gene. Their favorite leaders let them work efficiently and alone whenever possible.
Among Millennials, leadership is a shared commodity. Tweet This This famously collaborative generation wants leaders who take responsibility and make the final call, but who listen first.
Technology, parenting styles and the Internet all taught Millennials to use their voices with leaders. In essence, everyone contributes, but somebody is the hub—and that’s the leader.
Tips for Leading Millennials
- Keep all the channels open, both online and in person. Check in as often as possible with the Ms on your team. Structure collaboration into your day and theirs.
- Emphasize solutions, not ideologies. It’s not the principle of the thing that counts for Millennials; it’s the outcome on the ground.
- Be clear about how and when decisions will be made, so that there’s time for input first.
- When success happens, make sure credit is shared with the whole team.
- Think about the best coaches out there—they listen, even during the heat of a game, and they work for everybody’s success. Act like a coach and Millennials will follow.
Find out which generation you lead most naturally and which gens you have to work hard to reach. Take the quiz.
President of Generational Edge, Amy Lynch has written and spoken about the generations for 15 years. She has spoken to 100s of groups from MTV and Comcast to Boeing, J&J and the staff of the U.S. Senate. Amy has been quoted in national publications, including The Washington Post, USA Today, Boston Globe, Huffington Post, Chicago Tribune and NBC Evening News, among others.
Contact Amy about keynotes, training or consulting.