As you look around your workplace, you may notice an alarming trend: the millennials appear to be taking over.
Boomers are aging out, starting to move into retirement or semi-retirement in masses, and millennials are now the largest demographic in the Canadian workplace. (It’s not just in Canada, the US is reporting similar numbers.)
With the swelling number of young-ish workers (the oldest millennials are in their mid-30s), and the departure of the oldest workers, who is filling the void in leadership?
Often overlooked, (the story of their generation, some will say) Generation Xers have been quietly assuming the mantle of leadership within their organizations and show no signs of slowing down. A 2018 report revealed that nearly 51% of leadership roles globally have been taken by Gen Xers.
The rest are still held by boomers, and a small number of roles have been taken by millennials. Recently, however, millennials have been moving into key leadership positions and are taking over management positions that puts them in charge of Gen Xers.
What does this mean for the workforce? Are there differences between the leadership styles of Gen X and millennials?
There are distinct differences between the two generations, but they aren’t necessarily a bad thing. In reality, both generations can learn from the other, strengthening their management style and benefiting their organization.
While millennials are thought to be more tech savvy than their predecessors, don’t underestimate the connectivity of Gen X. While 56% of millennials report that they are digitally savvy, 54% of Gen X says they are as well.
A Nielsen study discovered that Gen X used social media 40 minutes longer each week than millennials and are just as likely to bring their tech skills to work. When it comes to using collaborative tools, social media and other tech aspects of their job, millennials may adopt new processes first, but Gen Xers don’t shy away from integrating them into their daily routine.
Collaboration. Mentorship. Decision making. When it comes to leadership, these are some of the specific traits that most employers look for. When asked, each generation had remarkable similarities in the things they look for in a leader.
Fifteen percent said building relationships, twenty percent said building a team and fifteen percent said communication were the top three skills necessary. With both millennials and Gen Xers valuing the same things in leadership, perhaps they are more alike than different.
How Can Different Generations Learn From Each Other?
Gen Xers (generally speaking) seem to have expertise in systems thinking and can help millennials understand the value of seeing organizational connectivity.
Millennials (generally speaking) seem to thrive on collaboration and can help Gen Xers see the value in trying new, innovative ideas.
Mentorship is important to both generations – the Gen Xers have wisdom they can share with the rising millennials, and millennials would benefit from a mentorship program focused on leadership.
Considered the middle child of generations, Gen X has been sandwiched between two of the largest generations in history. As a result, they are in a position of great influence and can play a pivotal role in the shaping of organizational leadership for the next several decades.
Finding ways for both generations to work together can be tricky but is essential for the future of corporate success. How can you embrace the shifting of leadership in your organization?
Michele Bailey is president and CEO of Blazing Agency and My Big Idea™. These two lines of business work congruently to support her clients’ success.