Welcome to the leadership continuum, where transformative Generation Z — defined here as born after 1995 — enters the workforce to disrupt, disturb and redefine success.
This new generation of emerging leaders literally have sat on the lap of transformation, witnessing industry, technological, regulatory and social change occurring at an accelerated pace: President Obama’s election, U.S. government bailouts and Facebook and Twitter’s formations, for example.
They are the most diverse generation America has ever seen, resembling the likeness and potential brilliance of the United Nations. Their ethnic and cultural diversity empower their nontraditional mindsets, behaviors, attitudes, habits and aggressive career goals.
This will require current leaders to create a new approach and system to recruit and maximize this generation’s potential, integrate its diversity into the existing culture, and upgrade the leadership operating system to create an ecosystem that will accelerate growth and development for a multiple generational workforce.
Members of Gen Z are aware of their value. They walk in empowerment and believe they are ready to be leaders when they receive their degrees, shake their university president’s hand and walk across the commencement stage. With this swagger, they:
- Feel they deserve to be treated seriously and not be subject to the antiquated, ‘wait your turn’ culture.
- Have little patience for a command-and-control hierarchy where they are typecasted and forced to stay within a box and color within the lines.
- Are not interested in filling a position and performing it the same way the incumbent baby boomer, Gen X or Gen Y did for 30 years.
Gen Z is conditioned to question the lines, break out of the box and challenge the status quo. They would like to sketch and re-engineer everything in pursuit of valued excellence. Gen Z is the generation of catalysts — they are curious, collaborative and creative, and right now they represent approximately 7 percent of the workforce. In 2019, 30 million will be employed, according to research and management training firm RainmakerThinking.
Baby boomers, Gen X and Gen Y will need leadership training and coaching to create a multigenerational leadership style and operating system that maximizes the full potential of the entire talent supply, congruently. If they don’t, organizations will become further disconnected, disengaged and disjointed as veteran leaders exit and the next generation of leaders enter.
Here are three ways leaders can prepare to lead Gen Z:
1. Upgrade the leadership operating system. Gen Z are independent, vocal and highly influential. The traditional human resources model of following the leader and only performing within a job description will have to shift to allow Gen Z to perform and maximize its ability to influence change on the outset, rather than their leadership potential being capsized by tradition. Baby boomers, Gen X and Gen Y will have to adopt an innovative leadership operating system that ignites but does not defuse Gen Z’s natural leadership ability to be influential, engaging, thought provoking and customer value-focused catalysts of change. Transforming to a leadership operating system where everyone is defined as the leader of a task, activity, project, initiative or system will enable this generation to thrive.
2. Maximize digital mindset competencies. Gen Z has a digital mindset competency to influence change quite efficiently; they can text, collaborate, research, email, problem solve, verbally communicate, make decisions, challenge the status quo and broker change — at the same time. “Let me get back to you with more information,” will be a saying of the past. Gen Z is agile in its ability to multitask and perform in different roles simultaneously, given its members’ low threshold for boredom and complacency. Creating a corporate collaborative social media environment to enable ‘genius mining’ for innovative ideas, solution gathering to solve historical business challenges and facilitation to build relationships and teams is critical for organizations to maintain relevancy in today’s competitive environment.
3. Create seats at the leadership table of change. Given their self-empowerment and self-awareness of their ability to foster and lead change, others will have to acknowledge that members of Gen Z are catalysts of change. They will have to create a culture that enables change from the bottom up, middle out and top down, congruently. Otherwise, organizations may find their newly found talent pipeline diverted to the exit rather than the leadership table.