Leading the Generations (Really?)

(reposted from an earlier post, 11/2012)

Over the years I have been a student of many a good presenters who have projected the need to be aware of the motivations and tendencies of the generations.  Somehow I didn’t get it?  I was not seeing the Gen X‘s, and millennials.  Maybe that’s because I see the personality as the stereotype rather than the age bracket. I always thought that it was just my profession (fire department) that normalized the generations with a brotherhood of shared experiences. As I get older, I am becoming more convinced that it doesn’t matter the generation, and it doesn’t matter the shared experiences (no matter how extreme), it only matters the person.

Men fight for liberty and win it with hard knocks.  Their children, brought up easy, let it slip away again, poor fools.  And their grandchildren are once more slaves.  ~D.H. Lawrence, Classical American Literature, 1922

Leadership has not changed for centuries. People respond as a followers based on how they are treated and how they are inspired by others. If I like you I’m likely to follow you. If I believe in your cause I’m likely to follow you. If I like you and believe in your cause, I’m sure to follow you and probably become a following leader.  This has shown to be true with the greatest generation through these young Gen ?’s of today.

There is nothing wrong with today’s teenager that twenty years won’t cure.  ~Author Unknown

Research shows that the millennials are probably going to change jobs several times in their career.  I hear they may be motivated by whats in it for them. So how do you lead the newest stereotyped generation? Learn what MBTI stands for and become proficient at reading the types and how to communicate with them individually. Learn the science of StrengthsFinder assessments from Gallup. This skill will allow you to positively influence people by recognizing their personal strength. These skills will allow you to access the true motivations behind those you want to foster as followers/leaders.    Oh, and this secret to leading a new generation is the same one that worked well with our father and our grand-father and back and back….

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

– Mark Twain

I do believe our social arena is the changing factor influencing our lives more than the expectations of a generation. Technology has definitely changed how we interact and conduct business. As we adapt to the new arena, we adjust our perceptions and expectations of those around us. Some don’t make the leap to the current arena and become mired in the last game. Maybe we can translate this into the newer generations as they tend to adapt quickly to the norms and those mired are obviously old school. As far as leading these whipper snappers goes, find out about them personally.

So, how has leading people based on their “generation status” worked out for you? How could you dig deeper when leading people and teams beyond such an over-generalized way as when they were born? What are you doing to learn about the people who you lead and adjust accordingly? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Parting shot: Read my post on Brass Bugles, “There are no Jerks, just different personalities.”  It’s all relative in leadership.

Art Work Credit: Disney Pixar Studios

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6 thoughts on “Leading the Generations (Really?)

  1. Your comment “as I get older” isn’t a possessive one because we are all getting older. I suspect that when you were a 20’s something firefighter you were a hard charger who wasn’t afraid to tell it like it is. But we learn as we age (most of us anyway) because we acquire more knowledge through experience gained over a longer time span. Old timers generally have a lot more experience simply because they have been around a lot longer than the younger folks. The one trait that manifests itself the most from having a greater collection of knowledge is wisdom. Older folks are generally wiser than those younger than themselves. I don’t think the disconnect is age or generational bracketing so much as it is sociological changes and different values, particularly in the area of respect. You make a good point on leadership not changing for centuries. Perhaps the act of leadership (and followership) hasn’t changed since Jesus walked the earth, but the world the people live in has changed, radically – the “social arena” you mention. Bottom line – lead by example, share knowledge and treat everyone as you would want to be treated.

  2. Doug, I think you are right on target. “lead by example, share knowledge and treat everyone as you would want to be treated”. I would add one other thought to that statement which is..”Be willing to lead by example, share knowledge and treat everyone as you would want to be treated.” because if you are not willing to lead…maybe you need to be the follower.

  3. Good thought provoking comments. I see alot of the younger generation unwilling to accept the lifelong experience paid by the older more experienced generation, I think it’s human nature. I have also seen the older generation fail to recognize the experience levels of those of use that have ‘been around the block” and paid our due’s so to speak. The newbies come into the field, full of fire and energy and likely to make mistakes and get hurt, where the more experienced people kind of go at it with decisiveness and tact, because we have been there, done that. Treat each individual with dignity and respect at the level they are educated and experienced and you will utilize them effectively.

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