Generational stereotypes have become a common thing now. That is how things make sense to us; we use such terms to distinguish different generations. There are four major generations that are in the workforce right now: The Baby Boomers, Generation X, Gen Y (also referred to as Millennials) and Gen Z.
All four generations have different ways of working and different styles of leadership. Communication is key in a workplace, and if that is not done right then problems arise. Mostly there are difficulties when someone in a managerial or executive position interacts with employees of various generations. Mostly, Baby Boomers are at the top of the workplace hierarchy and so miscommunications take place when they deal with their subordinates. Their style of leadership is much different than what recent generations prefer.
However, in some companies there are even Millenials who are managing Baby Boomers and when you are dealing with a generation different than your own there is room for communication errors. Communication is an important leadership quality and if that is not happening properly then it also affects the growth of a business.
What leadership style does each generation prefer?
As time keeps changing, everything else also changes with it. Not every generation leads in the same way as there are differences in culture, economy, societal norms, business models and perspectives over time. Leadership styles have also evolved with the passage of time and each generation deals with problems differently. Modern workplaces now require modern styles of leadership and conventional methods are not that effective anymore.
Baby Boomers Leadership Style
The generation of Baby Boomers lead in a very autocratic way. They prefer predictability, patterns and are resistant to change. This is because Baby Boomers have lived in a time of war, social movements and the entire business model and economy changing. In positions of leadership they take very little input and mostly delegate tasks.
They don’t believe in active participation with their employees and are more focused on just getting the work done. They value the hierarchy and in positions of leadership prefer being respected. This leads to a communication barrier because other generations like inclusivity and building a good workplace connection. They feel that their input is not needed and that leads to them feeling under-valued in the workplace.
This technique in the modern workplace does not cultivate a good environment. Employees of Generation X and Millenials prefer a more relaxed environment in the workplace. They derive personal satisfaction in their work being valued and they like feeling appreciated.
An autocratic style of leadership de-motivates them and in companies where mostly Baby Boomers are leading different generations, research shows that employee turnover is higher. However, not all Baby Boomers lead like this. Some of them like a more participative decision making process as long as their input is being valued.
A participative approach is beneficial to some as they like learning modern ideas and technique. They are more team oriented. However, a work characteristic that is present in all Baby Boomers is the importance of a chain of command and authority. Even in a participative process they demand formality and so some of the employees might be hesitant to express their views.
Baby Boomers have realized this over time as business models have changed and the command structure has also weakened. Businesses in the modern world are run through team work with a loose hierarchical structure. Some have incorporated modern strategies to adapt to changes but most still lead the same way.
Generation X Leadership Style
Born in the age of information technology, Gen X has different characteristics than Baby Boomers. They highly value independence; they like having a work/life balance and over time have shown their disdain for leadership. Their leadership style is different and they have incorporated traits such as communication, collaboration, connection in the way they lead.
Gen X prefers an engaging workplace and they like taking input from their employees. They even mentor them if need be and like team work. They are the kids of Baby Boomers and so growing up they saw the leadership styles change and an autocratic approach becoming a weaker one. They saw the mistakes of their elders and changed the environment of the workplace over time. They like transferring their knowledge and advocate independence to younger generations
Millennials Leadership Style
They now make up a good proportion of the workplace and it is estimated that in the next five years Millennials will make 75% of the workforce. This generation highly values teamwork, communication, transparency and engagement. They are set to completely change the dynamics of the workplace.
As more and more Millennials are being ranked to managerial positions now, dynamics have changed. Their leadership style is very much focused on team work. They like a workplace which is diverse and not very focused on the chain of command. They are breaking all conventional barriers and they believe that leadership skills should exist on every level of the organisation.
This is making workplace environments more diverse in every aspect and is bringing positive change. Companies that are led in such ways have a high employee retention rate and such businesses are growing rapidly than ones which are still being led in conventional ways.
Which Leadership Style is more effective?
The way we manage things is affected by the values we have been taught and societal changes over time. We all have lived through different times and so expectations have also evolved. In the context of a modern workplace, leadership styles of Baby Boomers have become redundant.
Technological changes have brought about a paradigm shift in business models. As of now, team work is what works and generations in the workforce look for a workplace environment that is inclusive and diverse. Baby Boomers have failed to adapt to the changes in society effectively. After a few years they are set to retire and then the shift that will come in businesses will be what will set the tone for the future.
Millennials by far have proven themselves and their leadership style is the most effective. In the end, every human wants to be seen and appreciated and such empathy and kindness goes a long way in building employee motivation and making them stay in one workplace longer. Such a leadership style has increased the growth of businesses and even brought higher returns for the company. A good environment in the workplace leads to overall growth, Millenials know this and they are ready to take the business world!