flowing motion

Gen Y leadership style

Posted on: March 27, 2008

The historical influences shaping Gen Y

There is an excellent article on Gen Y from The Office NewB on Brazen Careerist today. And who says Gen Y can’t write! It sums up the influences on Gen Y and shows the potential of their generation.

1. Getting along in an equal world.

2. Taking personal responsibility for the economic viability & sustainability of our work and lifestyle.

3. Re-centering our lives on our families and community life.

4. Fully exploring new technologies.

5. Extending self-determination to our relationships in the workplace.

I recently had an assignment in which I worked intensively with a large Gen Y client-base for three years. As a Gen X’er, I had a steep learning curve, and it is one that I glad I made.

I’ve found Gen Y refreshing. It is true that they want information to be personally meaningful. But who doesn’t? Gen Y simply live at a time when technology has allowed democracy to step forward. They are showing us the way.

Are Gen Y prepared for leadership?

I’ve also recently had some bad experiences with Gen Y as leaders and I asked around the blogosphere for their thoughts. This is important. Many Gen Yers are already in positions of responsibility and I have particularly disliked they way they are unable to relate to people with experience. I don’t mean kow-tow; I mean to relate; to acknowledge the existence of others; to inquire and to learn from others. These failures challenged my understanding that Gen Y are good at working in teams.

In drafting my comment to The Office NewB’s post, I may have found the answer and I would be interested in your opinion.

Gen Y are good at dealing with distributed decision making, not teams per se. In distributed decision making, the final conclusion is found by repeated iterations. Consensus is marked by a majority vote in some cases and supported in others by the absence of another compelling argument.

Distributed decision making does not require a leader to encourage involvement. The distributed system has been set up by a games designer, or puppet master, whom players acknowledge, implicitly but do not communicate with directly. Leadership in these systems moves around depending on who is contributing the most interesting solution. The games designers and puppet masters also respond to the players as the game unfolds.

In a conventional workplace, leadership does not move around. It is vested predominantly in one person and that person has an obligation to find the information relevant to the problem. The system assumes the leader has the cognitive and behavioral framework to detect and to collate all the information.

It is not and never has been a feature of command and control to ignore subordinates. That would be so silly.

If the system is malfunctioning and the ‘boss’ is not sufficiently capable to recognize and organize all the relevant information, or if the people put in those positions don’t expect to play that role, or if they problems we are addressing are too complex for any one person to function in that way, then we may need to overhaul either our processes or our structures.

I wonder if anyone else has a view one this?

UPDATE: Update of my views on managing in the age of Gen Y

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3 Responses to "Gen Y leadership style"

My statement to Gen Y: “It’s about people, not things.” I don’t know how many times I’ve seen two young people sitting together staring at their phones. They seem to lack any direct social skills. The same technology that improves our social networks can also be a barrier.

As for your idea, it makes me think of Dungeons and Dragons. You have a Dungeon Master who has created the system for people to play in, but does not implicitly instruct players on what to do. Leadership in a campaign is determined by the character a player decides to use. I like the idea, but then I’m from Gen X.

Thanks Ned. I didn’t play Dungeons and Dragons but from what I understand, this is a feature of game play.

I have greater faith in Gen Y than that. I think there is a parallel in the generations who never got used to using the phone or email. There is a whole new set of possibilities as you say around, well this conversation, that we never had even 3 years’ ago.

Personally, I find it refreshing!

[…] Comment! Gen Y may be effective workers but are they good leaders and managers? […]

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