Leading Generational Diversity with Success in 2023

As a society and within business, we’ve had to deal with multiple diversity issues, such as race, gender, and ethnicity, but a new term more frequently mentioned in our working environments is generational diversity. Just how much of a factor is this concept? And what would leading through its potential challenges look like in 2023 to achieve success?

It’s not uncommon to find 4-5 different generations in an organisation, from veteran company directors born in the 1950s to 46–60-year-old baby boomers, Generation Xers in their 35-45s, 24–34-year-old Millennials, and new entrants under 23 years of age. This makes for a truly complex working environment.

Can You Lead Everyone?

Leaders are more challenged than ever to navigate and develop cohesive teams that succeed across diverse generations. Veterans are known to be traditionalists; baby boomers are dedicated and hardworking; Gen Xers are independent and well-educated individuals; Millennials are collaborative and impact-oriented; and Gen Zers are called optimists. For leaders wanting to inspire organisational wins, there’s clearly a lot to consider.

Failing to lead effectively across these generational differences may give rise to conflict, separatism, low morale, and ultimately poor performance. Therefore, it’s essential that leaders not only embrace all generations but also understand how to make strong, meaningful connections with each of them.

This is easier said than done. One of the main limitations of leadership is that older generations feel they have a lot of experience and place much of their wisdom in their industry knowledge, while the younger generations feel alienated and prejudiced for their lack of experience. The newer generations also have the benefit of technology and are driven by innovation, which may not sit well with those who place more value on tested methods. Still, a leader must create a healthy, collaborative work environment that closes the gaps between generations of working professionals.

Adding to the Leadership Challenge

Another limitation that makes it difficult for some leaders to get the best out of everyone is a lack of humility. Without this fundamental attribute, one may feel obligated to have all the answers and be less likely to admit being wrong. They may also struggle to learn from others or embrace new ways of thinking. As Gloria Steinem puts it, “We need to remember across generations that there is as much to learn as there is to teach.”

To ensure a high-performance culture, leaders must be aware of their strengths as well as their limitations, and they need to embrace the responsibility of creating a work environment that inspires the best in all types of people. This requires that leaders value everyone, irrespective of their generation.

As Dr Tim Elmore, author of “A New Kind of Diversity,” points out, one of the fundamental principles of leading across generational diversity is the ability to relate to everyone. To do so, he uses the “LEG” principle, which states that whether you’re leading up or down the generation, you need to be curious and Listen so that people feel heard. You need to Empathise so that people feel understood, and you need to earn the right to Guide. Leaders who apply this principle can certainly lead everyone!

Enhance Your Generational Diversity Leadership Skills

Coaching makes a strong impact, empowering leaders and managers with the right skills and encourages people-centric curiosity. It also teaches them how to engage in thought-provoking conversations that reflect empathy and genuine care. Experienced coaching professionals can help you make measurable progress and set your business on the best possible course for 2023.

As a leading provider with 25 years of experience coaching leaders in blue-chip companies and government, Change Partners is perfectly positioned to help you advance.

Tebalo Tomane is an International Executive Coach at Change Partners. She is passionate about helping leaders achieve real results. Contact her at tebalotomane@change.co.za or on 083 636 3120, and let’s make 2023 a year of real progress!

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