What Do Gen X, Y and Z Think About Future Leadership?

April 5, 20178:43 am1051 views

In an effort to uncover how employers can support the career goals of their multi-generational workforce, INSEAD Emerging Markets Institute, along with Universum,  The HEAD Foundation and MIT Leadership Centre have released “Building Leaders for the Next Decade”, the third and final eBook from this year’s Generations series.

This report explores what Gen X, Gen Y and Gen Z think about leadership. Is there a gap between how one generation wants to lead and how another generation wants to be led? How does this gap vary across genders and geographies?  

“Gen Y and Gen Z have changed the dynamics of the workplace. Have they also changed the way leadership is exercised? The answer turns out to be nuanced,” said Henrik Bresman, Associate Professor of Organisational Behavior; Academic Director, INSEAD Global Leadership Centre; Senior Advisor, The HEAD Foundation.

Vinika D. Rao, Executive Director of INSEAD Emerging Markets Institute added, “Even as Gen Y and Gen Z are altering the workplace, they may also be changing the traditional patterns of organisational leadership behaviour that Generation X has gotten used to. As companies strive to build their leadership pipelines, it’s important to understand the gaps between how one generation wants to lead and how another generation wants to be led.”

Not all generations are enthusiastic about leadership roles. The desire to lead varies greatly by age and region. 

The importance of reaching a leadership position based on the global average is high within each generation. Over 60 percent of Gen Z and Gen Y cite it as important. Gen X is slightly less enthusiastic with 57 percent saying it matters. Yet, if we examine the findings by country, enthusiasm about leadership positions varies tremendously. In the Nordic countries, for example, respondents are much less likely to think leadership is important, while respondents from Mexico were overwhelmingly enthusiastic about it.

See: Guide to Braving the New Workplace with Multi-Generational Workforce: Gen X, Y and Z

These findings are important for companies to understand, because they may point to significant talent development hurdles within the organisation, and not always the most obvious ones. For example, a company with presence in the Nordic countries might use data to understand its own executive workforce better, and investigate leadership development options for its high-potential candidate.

Yet in Mexico, the opposite is true: how can you keep workers motivated who may be interested in leadership, but who won’t attain it? Research from the eBook shows 76 percent of Gen Y professionals from Mexico say attaining a leadership role is important. Realistically, some portion of those who indicated it as important will not achieve it, as there are not enough traditional leadership roles to make this attainable.

Regarding the attractive aspects of leadership, women are more likely to enjoy the challenging work involved (this is particularly true of Gen X women), as well as coaching and mentoring others (Gen X and Gen Y women professionals). Men in all generations are much more likely than women to say that leadership is attractive, due to high future earnings and a high level of responsibility.

“Stress, be it the perception of stress or experience with it, is the top reason cited by all generations that prevents many from seeking out leadership roles,” said Universum’s Senior Vice President, Jonna Sjövall.

“58 percent of Gen Z cited stress as the factor that makes leadership roles unappealing. Even the older, wiser Gen X isn’t immune, with 52 percent of the respondents from this generation citing, it is the stress associated with leadership roles that makes them unattractive, however as we highlight in the report, certain countries are more concerned about stress than others.”

The insights from this eBook are based on an annual survey of over 18,000 students and professionals worldwide – from Gen Xers who’ve been in the workplace for two decades to Gen Z students.

Also read: Demystifying the Leadership Talent Gap in Asia Pacific

Image credit: freedigitalphotos.net

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