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As the modern workplace continues to evolve with a rich diversity of generations, embracing flexible leadership across these age groups is crucial for fostering collaboration, driving innovation, and achieving sustainable success in today’s dynamic business landscape. Flexible leadership relates to the leader’s willingness and ability to adapt the way they lead others to reflect the unique needs of the situation and the person being led. When leading different generations in the workplace, the leader must be flexible and adapt their communication and leadership skills to ensure that the team is successful.

The current generations in the workplace include:

Silent Generation
Born between 1925 and 1945

Baby Boomers
Born between 1946 and 1964

Generation X (Gen X)
Born between 1965 and 1980

Born between 1981 and 2000

Generation Z (Gen Z)
Born between 2001 and 2020

Each of these generations have stereotypes and assumptions about their priorities and abilities in the workforce, such as Baby Boomers being resistant to change or Gen Z being addicted to their phones and only communicating through texting or social media platforms. But as a leader, you must acknowledge that the people born in these generations experienced the world completely differently than the generations before or after them, and these different experiences will affect how they approach work and success.

People grow up with different expectations and priorities, so you should adapt your leadership style to both the situation and the person to achieve extraordinary results. Here are three things you can do to begin leading across the generations on your team and achieve unity and success.

Generational Gap office meeting

1. Establish Expectations

Because people of different generations approach work differently, it’s important to clearly set the expectations for your team. Tell them what time you expect them to be there, processes and procedures, and what success will look like for every person and the team as a whole. You should also take this opportunity to ask your team members what expectations they have from you in order to be successful. Gen Z workers tend to focus on promotions and work-life balance, whereas Gen X and Baby Boomers value stability. So, you could give team members the option of working remotely or only in the office part of the time, and you could institute a process of annual reviews to appeal to the priorities of all generations.

By soliciting the thoughts of your team members and incorporating them into the team’s expectations, you are showing your team members across the generations that you care about what they care about.

2. Adapt Communication Methods

People from different generations prefer various communication methods. Older generations are more likely to want in-person meetings or to speak on the phone. Younger generations are more likely to prefer communicating over email, text, or a messaging platform like Slack or Teams. By knowing which communication method your team members prefer, you will be able to reach them and connect with them easier. To truly lead across the generations, you should diversify your communication methods. Send the same message on Teams, in an email, tell it to the person, and put up a poster in the office.

3. Encourage Coaching

Team members of all generations have a lot to learn from each other. Younger generations are better acquainted with the trials of technology after growing up with it, and older generations can give guidance on how to be independent. By encouraging the team members to coach each other, they will be empowered to learn and grow together.

People belonging to various generations operate in distinct ways. Because of this, we can learn from and utilize the strengths of every individual and generation. By being a flexible leader and adapting your leadership style to the person and the situation, you will be able to create a successful, multi-generational team.
To further develop flexible leadership skills in your organization, explore CMOE’s Flexible Leadership workshop.

About the Author
Hannah Sincavage
Hannah joined the CMOE team in 2022 and brings both her unique expertise in writing and her prior teaching experiences to the Design Team and CMOE clients. She earned her Master of Arts in Writing and Rhetoric Studies at the University of Utah. Hannah works with the Design Team to provide innovative learning solutions that meet the needs of each organization.

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