Leading Blog






11.19.09

Changing Generational Expectations on Leadership

Earlier this year La Piana Consulting issued a report as a part of their NonprofitNext Initiative, that explores the key trends shaping the future of the social sector. They identify five trends: Demographic Shifts Redefine Participation, Technological Advances Abound, Networks Enable Work to Be Organized in New Ways, Interest in Civic Engagement and Volunteerism Is Rising, and Sector Boundaries Are Blurring.

The report states, “In this changing environment, transformation is not optional. The future will demand a collective rethinking of what it means to be an organization, how individuals define their work and how best to both compete and partner across many permeable boundaries.”

Looking at the first trend, Demographic Shifts Redefine Participation, we see that as younger generations begin to dominate the workforce, they bring with them different values, expectations and the place of technology in achieving results. This of course, changes how they define participation.

La Piana Consulting rightly asserts that, “The challenge is not so much the wholesale changing of the guard that was feared, but the need to figure out how the generations can work together effectively now and in the future…. There are significant distinctions in how younger generations value, approach and leverage engagement, transparency, technology, professional development and work-life balance. These differences will have to be negotiated.”

More foundationally, it changes how we approach leadership, the organizational culture and structure. How will working across generations change the way you do work?

Church consultant Cynthia Ware, wrote on her blog The Digital Sanctuary, that this means more team participation and leadership “sharing.” This almost always gets interpreted as leaderless or a kind of a feel-good, rudderless “hot-tub” leadership that is not heavy on results. Top-down leadership is not necessarily bad leadership, but is often executed poorly. It is most often associated with command and control, which is something else. Authority comes with responsibility, but is most effective when used sparingly.

Ware eloquently clarifies the issue:
“Top down” leadership is not always controlling - yet it is usually perceived as such - which is reflected in the trend. In fact, headship, if functioning correctly, releases rather than restricts, empowers rather than dominates, etc.

I always think of the Exodus model (Ex 18:21-27) and spreading leadership out only means “multiplying” it, not eliminating it. It’s easy for people to jump to the concept of “leaderless” when dealing with the new paradigms since in internet terms were talking about decentralization here, but leaders are more necessary than ever - those who use their leadership to influence to disciple & release others.
For each generation—old and new—this will require learning a new perspective on what it means to share leadership. It’s healthy. If leaders stop learning they stop leading.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:35 AM
| Comments (0) | Leadership



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