When It Comes to Leadership, Gen X Marks the Spot

Sometimes referred to as the forgotten generation, Generation X is the neglected middle child, often overlooked in favor of the baby boomers that came before them and the millennials that came after. Yet according to the Global Leadership Forecast 2018 report, Generation X is “primed to take on nearly every important leadership role in organizations.”

Born between 1965 and 1981, Gen Xers were early technology adopters and gamers who went on to embrace digital and social media are now emerging as confident and capable digital leaders, just two percentage points behind the “digital native” millennials. At the same, however, Gen Xers have an average of 20 years’ experience in the workplace, meaning their digital savvy is balanced by well-developed skills and competences in traditional leadership. And the ability to combine those skillsets is a significant asset at a time of rapid changes and technology advancements that are transforming the workplace and redefining how businesses are designed and function.

The Global Leadership Forecast 2018—a three-way collaboration between EY, Development Dimensions International, and the Conference Board—integrates data from 25,812 leaders and 2,547 HR professionals across 2,488 organizations in 54 countries and 26 major industry sectors. Its findings show that while Generation X has been slower to ascend to leadership than baby boomers and millennials (with 1.2 promotions in the past 5 years within their organization, compared to 1.4 and 1.6 respectively), Gen Xers are loyal, and tend to stay with their companies longer than their younger cohort. They do, however, have a much higher tendency than both other cohorts to seek external opportunities for development and coaching. According to the report, 20% of Gen Xers prefer external coaching rather than coaching from their own manager, compared to 14% of baby boomers and just 11% of millennials.

Based on its findings, the report advises organizations to take advantage of Gen X leaders’ unique perspective on how to work with, develop and leverage new technologies. In order to achieve this, they must equip them with the right tools needed to leverage technology to maximize business impact, encourage them to look outside the organization for coaching and development guidance, and provide them with the freedom and support to try out new approaches and encourage innovation and growth. The ground rule, the report points out, is to always avoid generational stereotypes and aim for a combination of technology-based tools and traditional learning.

Among its Leadership Megatrends, the Global Leadership Forecast 2018 listed the power of digital to reshape the workforce, favoring those with digital savvy at the expense of their less technologically savvy peers; the impact of data and analytics on the human side of business, and specifically on areas such as inclusivity, agility and fairness; the importance of grounding leadership in solid cultural cornerstones and diverse gender and generational views; and the role of a team-centric attitude as a key factor for thriving in the workplace.

Yet as the report’s authors note, “these are actions that many—but far from most—organizations have in place, but that are often overlooked as key building blocks on which more advanced elements of leadership strategy rely. That is, though they’re often common sense, they’re rarely common practice.”

Read the detailed report: www.ddiworld.com/glf2018

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