The Challenge of Cross-Generational Leadership
From my experience of working with the development needs of organisations in the UK, I think there are very definite challenges associated specifically with the different generations that exist in organisations today. The ‘Baby Boomers’, Generation ‘X’ and ‘Yers’ do have different ways of working and different expectations or needs from their careers simply as a result of their age.
The potential for a ‘collision’ of the generations is very real in leadership terms. It is a fact that the majority of senior leaders in organisations are not Generation ‘Yers’ and if the attitude to leadership within an organisation is also ‘top down’ then the opportunity to align the organisation with this generation in particular, is often lost but – it has to be more than a ‘one-way’ street.
In my experience, the organisations and leaders that address the different preferences and perspectives of all generations, have usually also taken active steps to involve the different generations in leadership roles and made changes in three key areas: communication strategies, achieving knowledge transfer and the recruitment/retention of their employees.
These organisations often have more than one strategy for corporate communication. They have put in place formal and flexible opportunities for mentoring and coaching between generations to develop understanding, talent and knowledge transfer. They have also given consideration to what challenges, benefits and incentives will engage and retain employees from different generations.
A final thought is that successfully engaging all generations of employees obviously has a wider impact than just on the individuals involved. Perhaps most importantly, the results can impact the culture and performance of an organisation, its ability to innovate, its leadership development and succession plans.