Why the Urgent Need for Developing the Next Generation of Leaders

A huge concern of company leaders today is the need to develop the younger generations to become the next leaders. Many current leaders are rapidly closing in on retirement age and the need or desire to leave day-to-day operations. America is in the process of a very dramatic demographic readjustment. The two younger generations, Generation X and Millennials (Gen Y) combined will make up the majority of the workforce within the next two years.

Projections show that by 2020, in just a little over five years, nearly 50 percent of the workforce will be comprised of Millennials with the remaining 50 percent comprised of 25 percent Gen X and the remaining 25 percent consisting of the last of the Boomer generation. That means half of your employees are likely to be in their twenties and thirties, and the majority of the current Boomer leaders will be past retirement age. As many authorities have pointed out, if this is not addressed now, there will be critical leadership gaps.

Generational Tendencies and Myths

It is no wonder company owners and leaders are concerned about effectively leading and developing these next generations, in order to prepare them for what lies ahead. Adding to the challenge of this task is the perceptions each generation has of other generations. Some of today’s leaders struggle with the perception that the younger generations are not as motivated and are not willing to do the work necessary.

Nextgen.gifHave you thought or heard the phrase, “This next generation doesn’t have the same work ethic we do. They want to go home at 5:00 p.m. and aren’t willing to work hard like we are.” The good news is that this is generally a myth. The incoming generations may have different strengths, but that does not mean they are not motivated—it might mean they strive for success in a different way.

The two younger generations have a strong desire to maintain a balance between their business and personal lives, while the Boomers tend to be more focused on business. It is possible that each generation’s attitude could be a result of what they experienced with their parents while growing up. Younger generations raised in an environment where their parents were often away from home due to their careers, might decide they are going to be more focused on family. This might be the attitude of some younger employees when they leave work on time, so they can be with their family or spend time on personal interests. However, many in younger generations express that they are open to taking work home, to do after they have family or personal time!

What Makes the Generations Unique?

An interesting survey of each of the four generations was done in 2010 by the Pew Research Center. What do you think was the one common answer from each generation when asked, “What makes your generation unique?” Amusingly, each generation replied that it was smarter than the other generations!

Today, it is no surprise that the two younger generations consider themselves to be better skilled in technology. However, the same Pew study showed that Generation X considered work ethic as its second strongest attribute. In fact, in many areas, Gen Xers do not see themselves to be vastly different from Boomers. However, Millennials see themselves as quite a bit different from Boomers.

The Generational Leadership Attitudes chart below shows the leadership style each generation prefers. It also shows the role that work plays in their lives, and it’s no wonder we are having challenges understanding each other! It is easy to see why someone from an older generation, who is more comfortable with autocratic leadership, would be challenged initially with an employee who wants a more cooperative or self-directed style. Of course, the challenge is shared by younger em