by Robert I. Kabacoff, Ph.D., Vice President of Research, Management Research Group
We have entered into a remarkable period where there are four (soon to be five) generations working side by side in the workforce. As the result of dwindling numbers of new entrants within the workforce and older workers remaining employed longer, multigenerational cohorts are increasingly working side by side in various work and leadership roles. Each generation brings unique perceptions, values and expectations to their organizations. Understanding these differences is vital because they create the potential for both synergy and conflict. How can we use an understanding of these differences to reduce conflict, maximize employee potential and create a more effective work environment?
A vital first step is to understand how younger and older workers differ in their approach to leadership and the emotional drivers that motivate them. Management Research Group (www.mrg.com) recently completed a study of the leadership approach of 41,000 executives, managers, and individual contributors in the United States. In this study, Silents (born 1925-1945), Baby Boomers (1946-1964), Generation X’s (1965-1976), and Generation Y’s (1977-1990) were compared on the 22 leadership practices measured by the Leadership Effectiveness Analysis™. Additionally, the personal motivations of a subset of these participants (N=3,000) were explored using the 17 emotional drivers measured by the Individual Directions Inventory™. What did we find?
When it came to leadership, older leaders were more likely to take a more conservative problem solving approach and focus on relationships and team playing, including greater cooperation, seeking out the opinions of others, and leading with empathy. Younger leaders were more likely to lead with excitement and passion, taking charge forcefully and focusing on the immediate production of results.
With regard to emotional drivers, older leaders were more motivated by opportunities for intimate affiliation and the ...