Of millennials, baby boomers, generation x, Z in leadership

People management issues: Robert Mandeya

Today’s work and business environment is a cosmic space of inter-generational interactivity requiring dynamic leadership skills to manage and run an organisation. This situation has been necessitated by the different mix of generations coming together under one common agenda of pursuing the vision, mission and values of a given organisation.

As the millennial generation continues to grow and make an impact, the business world is starting to see increased changes brought on by this generation. The result is a major shift in the landscape of today’s workplace, and while some are still getting used to the idea of this new millennial-friendly work environment. Many major corporations are making some big changes to accommodate the lifestyle and the needs of this revolutionary generation. It is not a fallacy that the millennials have already surpassed generation X and the baby boomers to become the biggest presence in the workforce today.

Who are they?

Millennials, baby boomers and generation Z are terms used to describe people of different ages, but it can get complicated when differentiating between them. Although there is no official agreement on the exact year each generation begins, here is a rough guide to when each one starts and finishes — so that you can find out where you fit in.
Following World War II, there was a “baby boom”, which gives this generation their nickname. The increased birth rates make them a large portion of the population, and they are typically born between the early to mid 1940s to 1960s. They benefitted from a time of increasing affluence and higher levels of income than their parents, and a surge in consumerism, enjoying more money to spend on food, clothes, and holidays.

Following the baby boomers, generation X are born between the early-to-mid 1960s, and the early 1980s. Culturally, generation X saw the rise of musical genres such as grunge and hip-hop, as well as indie films. They are sometimes called the “MTV Generation”, as they experienced the emergence of music videos, and the MTV channel. This is the generation to which I belong.

“Millennials” is a popular term in modern culture, but it is sometimes difficult to pinpoint exactly when they were born. However, it is generally believed they were born between the early 1980s to the mid-1990s or early 2000s, so many young adults nowadays would define themselves as millennials. The generation was severely impacted by recession, as it caused record unemployment, affecting young people joining the workplace, as well as a period of economic instability. There is a slight overlap between millennials and generation Z, as generation Z are said to be born between the mid 1990s to mid-2000s.They are mainly the children of generation X, but could have parents that are millennials. As they have had the internet from a young age of generation Z tend to be knowledgeable of technology and social media.

Implications on leadership

These different generations bring with them different work styles in the workplace. Although every individual approach their work life through slightly different norms and habits, which can create plenty of miscommunication, there is something peculiar about each generation’s approach to work. In the last few years, human resources and leadership experts have made a big deal over generational differences and the chaos they can wreak in the workplace. But the truth is, regardless of the differences, there are also many important similarities that hold true regardless of generation. Equally, these generations generally reflect different leadership styles when thrust into positions of responsibility.

Success, leadership styles

Many factors can affect organisational success. One factor that is important to organisational success is effective leadership.

Which generation of leaders is most effective? The question is, can generation Xers effectively lead baby boomers? Organisations are focussing their attention on effective leadership and employee satisfaction as potential influences on organisational success. In the past, many organisational challenges would be resolved by focussing on issues of gender and ethnic differences.

However, organisations have failed to address issues related to generational differences that may have a significant impact on the leadership and success of the organisation.
In today’s workplace, organisations are experiencing issues of effective communication and work group relationships affecting productivity, satisfaction, and retention of its employees. In many corporate organisations, there are many departments and divisions staffed with different groups communicating and working together on a daily basis.
Generation Xers are leading boomers, boomers are leading veterans, and nexters are trying to teach the other generations the latest technology that will help do their job.

Transformation the answer?

The transformational leadership style focuses mainly on the ability of leaders to influence and inspire followers through their visions, creativity, goals, and actions.

There are positive and conflicting outcomes to the participative leadership style. Positively, participative leadership leads to quality decisions, consensus and acceptance, understanding of the decision by those responsible for implementing it, development of decision-making skills throughout the organisation, enhanced motivation, job satisfaction, resolution of conflict, and team development. Conversely, participative leadership can lead to consensus at the same time as the need for authoritative leadership. There is also the need to consult along with the need to make timely and efficient decisions. Last, there is the need to reconcile external accountability pressures with the values and systems of the organisation.

Mandeya is an executive coach, trainer in human capital development and corporate education, a certified leadership and professional development practitioner and founder of the Leadership Institute for Research and Development (LiRD). — robert@lird.co.zw, info@lird.co.zw or +263 772 466 925.