Leadership and followership
Leadership and followership

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Leadership and followership

2.2 Generational context

In the workplace today, it is possible for up to four generations to be working together.

There is significant research available on this topic, but a recent online survey conducted in the US by professional services company EY, which focuses on the perceived strengths and weaknesses of each generation in the workplace, found the following information:

Table 2 Workplace characteristics

GenerationAge groupPerceived workplace characteristics
Baby Boomers49–67
  • Scored highly in being a productive part of organisations; hardworking; a team player; nurturing and essential for others’ development.
  • Best at displaying executive presence and being cost effective.
  • Less likely to be viewed as adaptable; collaborative; social media opportunists; and brand ambassadors.
  • Considered the least tech savvy.
Generation X33–48
  • Achieved the top scores in being considered a productive part of organisations; a team player; nurturing and essential for development opportunities.
  • Cited as being the best at revenue generation; relationship building; adaptability; problem-solving and collaboration.
  • Least likely to be considered difficult to work with or cynical and condescending.
Generation Y18–32
  • Best at being tech savvy and social media opportunists; or leveraging social media beyond marketing.
  • Scored high marks for being enthusiastic.
  • Had lower scores than other generations for being perceived as a team player, hardworking and a productive part of organisations.
  • Perceived as difficult to work with, entitled and lacking relevant experience.

Clearly these different characteristics and perceptions can bring challenges, particularly if the leader has different values from their workforce!

Context is a broad issue with many elements. In Activity 2, you’ll reflect on the context of an organisation you are familiar with.

Activity 2 Influences on leadership context

Timing: Allow about 20 minutes

Choose an organisation you are part of, or would like to be part of, and consider its various influences. Under each of the following headings, list the issues that you would have to consider as a leader of your organisation.

International trends and issues (e.g. globalisation)

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National trends (e.g. political policies)

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Local influences (e.g. the role of local communities)

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Internal influences (e.g. the culture of the organisation)

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Cross-cultural influences (e.g. a variety of nationalities within the workforce)

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Generational influences (e.g. a variety of generational viewpoints within the workforce)

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Discussion

Depending on your chosen example, you may not have issues to consider in every category, but the point is that all organisations and leaders will be subject to a range of external influences. For example, you may have thought of funding issues, attitude to risk, team motivation etc.

This activity is adapted from the OpenLearn course Leadership and context [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .

Many experts conclude that adapting your style to fit the situation or context is a useful approach, so in Section 3, you’ll explore leadership style and consider some of the different styles that have been defined.

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