You've heard it before—the old adage: birds of a feather, flock together. While this is true both in and out of the workplace (for humans as well as birds), a recent article in The Leadership Quarterly, defines the term Flock Leadership as a useful means of identifying leadership opportunities in organizational settings. In the article, the authors describe how this form of collective leadership is relational rather than hierarchical, requiring an individual's awareness of their own unique strengths. Thus, the results aid in the development of systemic responsibility for all.
If this sounds similar to the infamous Musketeer motto (one for all, all for one), it's because it is. Flock Leadership is based on mutual respect and on a commitment to preserving dignity regardless of background, social status or generational point of view.
When it comes to managing a multi-generational workforce, each group comes with its own unique perspective and myriad personality traits. Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millennials, as they've all been aptly named, come together within all types of industries to create a generationally diverse workplace. As a leader, it's important to not only understand their respective motivating factors, but also to be able to manage their differences accordingly.
The Baby Boomers: (1946-1964)
This is the generation whose mantra states “anything is possible ”, and they're willing to work long and hard to ensure their personal and professional success. As a manager, you should acknowledge their experience and seek their counsel when applicable. When it comes to professional communication, Boomers value socialization; so, strike a balance between emails and face-to-face conversations. They're motivated by position, perks, and prestige, and they define themselves by their professional accomplishments.
Unsurprisingly, this generation is faced with a fear of professional flat lining—that is, they're conflicted by remaining relevant amidst a changing organizational and technological landscape. So, encourage them to champion new and upcoming leaders through passing on their knowledge and insights. This will revitalize their efforts in the workplace and provide mentorship for younger, potentially less experienced employees.
Generation X: (1965-1981)
Otherwise known as "the forgotten generation," Gen Xers came of age in an era of two-income families, rising divorce rates, and a faltering economy. Gen Xers appreciate fun at work and they espouse a work hard/play hard mentality. This also means they place a high premium on efficiency, so try not to task them with anything they might consider to be a waste of time. Upper levels of management should acknowledge their talents and expertise and allow them as much flexibility as is feasible.
Understand and honor Gen Xers' need for a balance between work and their personal lives, and use reason, rather than power, to direct their activities. When it comes to communication, rely more on technology and save meetings for issues that truly require face-to-face conversations. This generation is collaborative, but independent. They're also good at dealing with change, so take advantage of their ability to encourage others and to spearhead innovation.
The Millennials: (1982-2002)
This generation is the largest in history and is known as a driving force for technological developments. Millennials grew up multitasking on multiple media outlets, and they've had an unprecedented exposure to concepts of diversity. Millennials want to be acknowledged for their talents and fresh perspective. They also want their managers to be available when they need assistance, as they dislike non-approachable leadership.
Generally speaking, most Millennials appreciate short and clear communications. Be sure to follow up periodically to ensure that your message was understood, just don't micro-manage. Although they're the younger generation in the workplace, show them respect them and that they're a valued member of the team.
Having a team of multiple personalities and different generations creates an environment of growth within your organization. It also promotes diversity and inclusion. Having your flock share the same direction, while working together as a team, ensures that your company's goals are met and everyone involved is successful.
With multiple generations and personalities in the workplace, it's wise to understand that everyone brings specific skills to the table. Take this personality quiz to discover how well you work with others!