What does “Good Leadership” mean to you? People are starting businesses left, right and center with some incredibly conflicting concepts of how to be a leader inside the workplace. It isn’t surprising that “Good Leadership” can mean many things; I mean, our generational mishmash is unlike anything in previous times. Our role models are as varied as our opinions.
There are all kinds of leadership styles that managers/owners can employ to get what they want. You’ve witnessed, experienced or read about some of them. Naturally, you’ll be drawn to the ones that are best for everyone involved, right? Maybe you take your cues from (name your entrepreneurial icon), maybe you follow the Fortune 500 success gurus, maybe you prefer a workplace reminiscent of the nuclear family, maybe you take the “sink or swim” approach, or maybe you just want to provide a product or service and haven’t really thought about your role as a leader.
Why is it so difficult?
Let’s take a short walk through the Boomer, Gen X and Millennial years.
Boomers: This is the generation of the nuclear family, uninterrupted growth and prosperity, a manageable population and no internet to find out what everybody else was up to. People phoned, wrote letters and visited. The pace was slower. You could quit school, get a job and work your way up to corporate vice-president. Unions grew to keep big business in check. Workers had more rights than ever before. It is a generation of people knowing their place and playing the game.
Gen X: The transition generation. Civil rights, freedoms, the breakdown of the nuclear family, huge population growth rate…you could still get a job as a young adult without a degree. This generation made the internet and technology what it is today. We went from rotary phones to smart phones, writing letters to email, visiting to facebooking. It is the generation that felt the effects of growing wage inequity, skyrocketing property values and international trade agreements. “I will buck the system.” “I will make the system my own.” “The system sucks. I give up.”
Millennials: This generation grew up with no expectation of a safe, secure job that would last forever and pay out a comfortable pension. They enter the workforce with massive student loan debt because they were the first generation that actually needed a degree to get a job. Everything is changing fast and this generation grew up in the age of information. They can turn on a dime. Work-life balance and purpose behind their work is important to them. They are more likely to spend their cash on an adventure than a house.
Can you see it?
Your workforce is diverse, values equality, and has little expectation (or perhaps desire) for a life-long career in one workplace. We are in the age of individuation seeking common purpose and our happiness is on the top of the list of things to do. With globalization and AI shrinking the job pool, the best thing we can do as leaders is to lead with compassion and empower our workplace teams to become the best versions of themselves to ride the waves of uncertainty.
What is Good Leadership?
How about this…think of that cool aunt or uncle of yours who balanced responsibility with fun, or maybe someone who mentored you and helped you open your horizons. What if you could apply those qualities to your business? You can be the authority figure without being authoritative. You can be a successful leader who doesn’t know everything but is aware of everything in your workplace. You don’t have to be perfect. You can be yourself. You can be part of the team and still be respected.
Who would you like to work for?