We could argue forever about whether great leaders are born or made, or about whether a benevolent dictator or laissez-faire leadership style is more likely to create success. What matters most about leaders today, though, is that they have both a strong head and a big heart.
That’s what it will take to lead effectively in the new workplace era where five generations are working together under your umbrella—and that’s if you succeed in finding the skilled workers you need in this increasingly competitive talent market.
Gen Z, born after 1997, is just beginning to reach working age and maybe sharing cube space with their parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents. If you’ve had trouble managing or communicating with Millennials, who will make up one-half of the workforce by 2020, this is a good time to reevaluate your strategies—before their ultra-digital little brothers and sisters join your team. What should you do to attract the talent you need and create a workplace where everyone feels at home and wants to stay?
What Millennials want from you
Millennials, set apart by their knowledge and use of technologies and their global perspective, are redefining our workplace cultures. Attracting and retaining them, and soon Gen Z as well is one of today’s biggest challenges for CEOs. Almost uniformly, organizations have failed to understand and deliver what younger workers want from their employers. However, what they don’t want are the traditional rigid structures that previous generations happily accepted.
Millennials want: purpose and meaning in their work, flexibility, transparency, opportunity for continuous learning, frequent feedback and encouragement, more work-life balance, freedom of expression, and recognition. Contextually, this could mean, for example, breaking up meetings into half-hour segments to give people time to check their phones or providing digital options for attending meetings or getting work done.
This kind of cultural upheaval has to have the full support of a CEO who is committed with head and heart.
How to be strong-headed and big-hearted
According to Chobani CEO, Hamdi Ulukaya, we need to forge a new kind of business leadership that fuses competitiveness with an unusually strong sense of compassion, or what he calls “strong head-big heart leadership.” He, himself, is described in Fast Company as a leader who “radiates more warmth than authority.” So, if you’re not born with the patience and flexibility to understand and deal with the diverse needs of five generations, the good news is that you can learn to develop it. With IQ knowledge increasingly available through technologies, EI, emotional intelligence, is where most leaders need to focus.
In working with business owners and leaders across the country, here are some of the traits I’ve seen head-heart leaders successfully develop:
- Servanthood, serving others rather than being served
- Communicating in ways that ensure people understand expectations, feel respected, and are safe speaking up
- Ethics, doing the right thing rather than the popular thing
- Sharing the credit; taking the blame
- Challenging people to think and inspiring people to act
- Being a willing mentor and teacher
- Making timely, thoughtful decisions
- Listening and providing continuous feedback
- Showing emotions appropriately and being transparent
- Sharing vision and living values
This is the future of leadership. Don’t be left behind.