Everyone belongs to a generation. By generation, I mean a period of time bookended by events of economic developments that impact on the culture we experience. This culture influences our beliefs and sense of identity. Each generation contains the seeds that will give rise to the subsequent one.
For today's youth the individual has always come first and feeling good about yourself is a primary pursuit and virtue. These beliefs were informed by the experiences of Gen X who made them a priority in parenting. Gen X's beliefs were influenced by Boomers' approach to life who were more 'hands off' in parenting.
Whilst every generation in seemingly different because of the macro forces at play, for the first time ever, we have 4 generations in the workforce right now. Power is cascading to the young with a continuing reliance on digital intelligence. The leadership that has worked in the past is now no longer fit for these challenges.
The paradox is that though the Millennials and Gen Z seem more confident, assertive and entitled, research by Dr. Jene Twenge is showing they are more miserable than ever. Depression, loneliness, anxiety and panic attacks are significantly more characteristic of today's 20-somethings than of preceding generations.
So, what is the best way to engage and drive performance through the emerging millennial and Gen Z population? Remember this is a generation who grew up with judgemental digital platforms, mass school shootings and constant publicised threat of terrorism. They believe they will never be able to afford their own homes and the world is watching and waiting to judge them at a moment's notice. They also have a higher focus on social responsibility and a higher expectation of achievement. They want to feel satisfied sooner hence the assumption that they want your job tomorrow. This is a time that shows us the skills and attributes required to excel as a leader are more complex than ever before, there is a need for a renewed approach to leadership development.
When millennials and others see the example of founders of companies in their early 20s and global giants by the time they get to 30, they expect that of themselves. They appear to have the confidence and know-how to be like those rare but powerfully influential role models. In some instances, this generation expect and demand rapid promotion and yet lack the relationship wisdom that older leaders had years to master. They equate knowledge with wisdom and judgement.
In other instances of recognisable millennial and Gen Z behaviour, paradoxically, they are highly idealistic - applying global thinking to their own actions, want lots of experiences rather than owning assets and want to be constantly inspired to contribute meaningfully in their work. They are not interested in climbing the career ladder.
Interestingly, there is strong evidence to suggest millennials are more motivated by a world that is safe and predictable (stability) and less by environments that require them to innovate and to think in more lateral terms (creating). This poses the firm question of whether this generation are truly tech originators or consumers of innovation?
The ELEVEN programme was developed to meet the challenge of not just this kind of complexity of generational world views but also crucially, rapid change and uncertainty...
The ELEVEN programme at Dublin Business School (DBS) is designed to unleash potential and create extraordinary leaders. Centred on the development of specific behavioural and adaptive thinking abilities through targeted, interactive and experiential modules, ELEVEN is designed to achieve real and sustained behavioural change. It is created around ELEVEN personal attributes, such as awareness, adaptability, innovation, creativity, empathy and vulnerability.
ELEVEN was developed by myself and a group of international neuroscientists, psychologists, psychotherapists and executive coaches. With links to Havard and modules facilitated by global experts in leadership, ELEVEN at DBS offers a 9 month part-time programme, designed to give participants the tools, confidence and insights needed to maximise the participants' potential.
Leading a workforce of the divergent world views of Millennials and Gen Z along with the numbers of Boomers and Gen X currently employed, will require new beliefs about what leadership is and crucially adopting different approaches that rely on attributes.
The only way leaders can navigate this minefield is to adopt and enhance what the neuroscientists are calling Social Cognition. This is the practice of truly using and valuing our innate ability to discern and respond to social interactions and leverage the power of mood contagion to achieve greater collaboration, motivation and the harnessing of diversity.
This is what ELEVEN is all about. Creating leaders who are confidently socially aware, using that awareness to connect with people on their levels of belief and creating the kinds of workforce where every individual feels valued for who they are, can perform to the best they can be and go home every day feeling they did something meaningful. Every generation has that in common with each other.