Generational challenges seem more superficial than real. For the Millennials and Generation Z people I have met, age is not a factor. They value the lessons learned from older generations, and they are eager to hear stories and understand the trajectories and disappointments in life and work. The openness seems genuine.

Maybe it is the older generations that have problems with younger ones. I know Boomers and Gen Xers who think the younger generations need to wait their turn or pay some mythical dues to the organization. I understand the value of learning and growing to take on bigger responsibilities. At the same time, I remember being in my early twenties and wanting it all as soon as possible.

In the middle of youth and being older, an energy emerges.

Generational Desires

Generation Z, although still mostly in college, 65 percent want honest advice. Forty-five percent state that the work relationships keep them in organizations, meaning co-workers matter – no matter their age.

Millennials place even higher emphasis on work relationships. In a recent survey, 94 percent said that the quality of workplace relationships is “important” or “extremely important.” Intertwined within this fact is that Millennials value integrity and humility in leadership. Both traits facilitate good working relationships (and much more).

For Gen Xers, coaching is important. DDI found that 67 percent of Gen X leaders want more external coaching. Pursuing advice and counsel in how to develop as leaders is essential, and Gen X leaders are showing the way in how to engage coaching in developing a growing leadership mindset.

Boomers may be seeing the light at the end of their careers. Through their work life, they became accustomed to a directive leadership style and then moving forward to do the tasks at hand. While Boomers could be more set in their ways, Gen Xers could be the enabling bridge between the generations.

Instead of generational identities, we need to develop generational compassion and leverage.

In my opinion, we can get too hung up in our generational identities. Although we need to appreciate our background and experiences, we always need to use self-reflection to understand who we are and how we can do better in our work and life. Instead of generational identities, we need to develop generational compassion and leverage. Young or old, we can learn and grow between our ages.

Leading Younger, Leading Older

One of the lessons I have learned is to lead younger and lead older. By doing this, we keep growth and change while navigating challenges and issues. Either one can come from any generation, yet we need to focus on what we can learn from younger and older generations.

Leading Older

When I was in my twenties, I spent the time to engage with individuals who were older than me. I enjoyed going to lunch and learning about their career paths and their stories of what challenges they encountered and how they worked through them. No path or story was always well-planned or stayed on plan. Through their detours, I learned the role of resiliency and the importance of taking unexpected opportunities.

I learned from a former Vietnam POW the importance of taking a stand and being all-in. From an older attorney, I learned the importance of doing research and knowing the details. From another attorney, I learned the joy of poetry and the arts. I learned of “sucking the marrow” out of life, and I learned the importance of numbers in the story the digits tell for a business.

By engaging with older generations, I was leading older. Leading older is gaining maturity without aging. Although nothing is the same as our own experiences, we gain and grow by learning from the experiences of others.

We need to lead older and embrace the age of living, working, and leading from our elders.

Leading Younger

When I was in my forties and now fifties, I spend the time to understand the drive, talents, and purpose of those younger than me. To experience the young spark in the eyes of someone in their twenties and thirties is invigorating. Part of an older generation’s responsibility is to prevent the spark from vanishing in a younger person’s eyes and spirit. Unfortunately, too many miss this point.

I learned from those in their twenties how to keep marketing programs and initiatives fresh and relevant. I better understood the role of purpose in work and life. I began to explore my own purpose and adapted my leadership ways and behaviors. I learned the importance of being coached and coaching. I learned the importance of giving space to spark new ideas and learn in new territories.

Leading younger keeps older generations alive in outlook and mindset. More than enlivening ourselves, it is keeping our relevancy through growth. I am a better leader and human being when I learn from those younger than me.

We need to lead younger and welcome the age of living, working, and leading from youthful energy, talent, and soulful purpose.

The Leadership Point

The simple leadership point is candid. If we are not leading older, we are lengthening our maturity of insights and actions. If we are not leading younger, we are shortening our effectiveness and stunting our growth.

In the middle of old and young are experiences to tap and discern. We need to grasp the value of being in the middle of generations rather than finger-pointing at the different generational spectrums. When we are experiencing the experience of others, we are opening our minds and soul to being better leaders.


Photo by Jake Thacker on Unsplash
Generations are just a reminder that we need to embrace leading younger and older. A leadership point too often missed in business.