Carolyn Fore, PhD

Apr 092021

Millennials entered the workforce during a time of increased worker diversity, a trend influenced by globalization and the presence of more women and minorities, yet generational differences are often overlooked as a diversity factor.

Diversity and inclusion are topics getting extra attention in corporations today and there are many ways to consider what diversity means to an organization and how to be inclusive. One area that is often overlooked is generational diversity and how the mix of different generations in the workplace affects organizational behavior. This becomes even more important when we consider the leadership of the organization and how the different generational characteristics of these leaders can influence their leadership style.

Leaders from each generational group have certain preferences for how they want to be led by their organizational leaders and they have a leadership style characteristic of their generation that affects how they lead others.

For example, when asked how they want to be treated by their leaders, each group has shown a preference for how they want to be led:

Traditionalists prefer leaders who are direct, take charge, and make unilateral decisions,

Baby Boomers prefer leaders who are participatory, collegial, and consensual,

Generation Xers prefer leaders who challenge authority and demonstrate competence,

Millennials look for leaders to provide guidance and develop strong interpersonal relationships,

Generation Z prefers leaders who are instantaneous, loyal, and realistic.

When we look at the leadership styles of each of these generations, they exhibit some of the same traits:

Traditionalists – Traditional; autocratic; hierarchical; directive; command and control

Baby Boomers – Democratic, participative, consensus building; collegial

Generation X – Challenging; competence; informed decision-making; laissez-faire

Millennials – Collaborative; inclusive; innovative; rely on networking and information sharing

Generation Z – Entrepreneurial; lack boundaries.

By considering how these groups differ in what they look for in a leader and how they behave as leaders, it’s possible to see why there are often misunderstandings and even conflict over what is expected when these individuals from different generational groups work together. By understanding what others prefer and expect, it can be easier to bridge the gaps in leadership expectations.


Jan 192021

I was recently introduced to the book Nine Lies about Work1 by Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall and have become a follower of Marcus Buckingham. One of the things in this book that I’ve been thinking about is the importance of building on your strength (see Lie #4 The best people are well-rounded). Instead of trying to fix what we don’t do well, we can be more effective by concentrating on what we do well. If we focus on our strengths and do what we do well even better, we are more likely to make a difference. I decided to apply this to leadership, more specifically to generational leadership characteristics. So, once again, what are those primary characteristics of leadership for each generational cohort?

Some driving forces for the leadership style of each generation are the following:

Traditionalists – Traditional; autocratic; hierarchical; directive; command and control

Baby Boomers – Democratic, participative, consensus building; collegial

Generation X – Challenging; competence; informed decision-making; laissez-faire

Millennials – Collaborative; inclusive; innovative; rely on networking and information sharing

Generation Z – Instantaneous; lack of boundaries


Obviously, there are some differences. If each generation focuses on what they know how to do best and are comfortable with, then does it well, they can be good leaders. This doesn’t mean they should forget that the people they are leading may prefer to be led a different way. First thinking of how you can be a good leader and then how that will be received by those you lead can be effective. Deciding your strength then adapting it to the needs of your team can lead to great results. Not all leaders should lead the same way so don’t try to mold your leadership style to what is best for someone else but not for you.


1Marcus Buckingham & Ashley Goodall, Nine Lies About Work (Boston: Harvard Business Review Press, 2019)

Nov 052020

It’s questionable whether a younger age has been set for Gen Z yet but it’s likely around 2016 which means Gen Z is currently 4 to 24. Most of them are still in those value-defining years with a good many years to go so there may be more defining moments on the horizon. However, there’s no denying that Gen Z will be influenced by polarizing politics and the pandemic. And it’s interesting to note that Gen Z doesn’t remember some of the recent defining moments in our recent history, 9/11 or the 2008 recession.

The reason I mention these things is that the shared experiences of generational cohorts shape feelings that become shared values. Different generations often express their values in different ways which can lead to conflict between age groups.

At work:

Baby Boomers tend to work hard, have patience, and value soft skills.

Generation X looks for openness, respect for diversity, curiosity, and practicality.

Millennials expect flexibility, mobility, creativity and have a broader more superficial knowledge than previous generations. They are success orientated and expect freedom of information.

Generation Z is known to live for the present and react rapidly. They are initiators and they have immediate information access and content search.

In some cases values themselves may not have changed but the way of exhibiting these values may have changed. For example, family can be important to workers of all ages. Older workers care about their families and the way they show this is to work hard to provide for them. Younger workers prefer to work fewer hours, spending more time with them to show how much their family means to them. These different ways of viewing the same value, family, can cause conflict at work.

Although there are some identifiable differences in leadership styles across different generations in the workplace today, there are some common themes across leaders of all these generations. It is well documented that leaders are expected to be honest, trustworthy, and have integrity, however, even these concepts may have different interpretations by different generations.

When we look at honesty, research shows that all leaders think honesty is important and rank it in the top five leadership traits but not all list it in the same position in the top five.

And closely related to honesty is trust. Leaders want to be trusted and individuals want to trust their leaders but depending on where they are in the generational cohorts, they may place a different emphasis on trust. For example, to traditionalists trust means allegiance to the organization or trust in the company to do the right thing. Baby Boomers trust others to accomplish the goals together. They believe in teamwork. Gen X is always questioning, deciding who to trust, and challenging the status quo. Millennials put their trust in relationships. They are looking for transparency and working together for the greater good. As for Gen Z, there isn’t as much data on this group, but it appears their trust is knowledge-based. They trust in the people and organizations they have the most information about and familiarity with.

And then when thinking of why people see leadership differently, it ties back to all the different perspectives but in a simple word, it helps to remember what is the key to each generation in leadership. A driving force for each generation and their leadership style is the following:

Traditionalists – hierarchy

Baby Boomers – consensus

Generation X – competence

Millennials – guidance

Generation Z – lack of boundaries, instantaneous

Understanding how each group views leadership differently can help us understand why we have different perspectives on how to lead which can lead to misunderstandings, and even conflict.

Oct 072020

One of the most important things to consider when trying to understand differences in views held by different groups of people, such as cultures, is the common values held by the groups. This certainly applies to understanding differences in generational groups and can be helpful in providing insight into some of the reasons their views in the workplace are not only different but often conflicting.

Baby Boomers are known for their respect for tradition, hard work, and use of soft skills. They typically have patience and are the group that started looking at emotional quotient (EQ) as an important factor in evaluating performance.

Generation X is known for their practicality, openness, and respect for diversity. They are also very curious and like change along with respecting hard work and knowledge.

Millennials look for freedom of information and more general or superficial (i.e. larger breadth of) knowledge rather than detailed expertise in a single area. They are success oriented and creative.

Generation Z has grown up with rapid information access and content search. They live for the present with immediate reactions to everything. They also tend to be initiators.

We see a constant increase in diversity with each generation which adds to the variety in ideas and creativity. We also see an accelerating speed of access to information with each generation which allows each successive group to have more information available faster but decreases their requirement to learn and comprehend details. This has led to quicker decision making with less problem solving associated with it. This leads to more trial and error approaches.

When you put these things and many other differences together, you can begin to see some of the sources of misunderstandings between generations. For example, why older generations believe younger workers don’t think through solutions before reacting. And on the other side, why younger generations accuse older workers of taking too much time to analyze before making decisions. When each individual takes time to understand the values and the approach of the person who has a different perspective, they are more likely to reach a point where they can agree on an approach that considers all views.

Buy your copy of the book Millennials Taking the Lead on Amazon

Sep 192020

The next generational cohort following Millennials is currently referred to as Generation Z. Sometimes it takes a while for a name to stick with a generational cohort, just as Millennials are also called Generation Y because they followed Generation X, but also had a multitude of other names before the majority settled on calling them Millennials. After that there has been a tendency to continue the alphabet. Some are referring to the generation of babies being born at this time as Generation A or AA or Alpha, starting back at the beginning of the alphabet. Only time will determine how that evolves.

Generational studies are not an exact science and the next big question is when does Generation Z start. Since I started my research more than 15 years ago, I have been following some of the leaders in this area designating Millennials as those born between 1980 and 2000 even though not everyone agrees with those years. That’s a big age span and many, especially the Millennials, will say there is a big difference between the older and younger Millennials. For that reason, I often divide them at the middle and call them the older and younger Millennials. Pew Research, regarded as an authority on collecting and evaluating data and trends, has recently revised the dates for Millennials and Generation Z. They now classify Millennials as individuals born between 1980 and 1996 and Generation Z as those born 1997 and later. No one seems ready to set the lower age of Generation Z yet.

Generation Z has it’s own set of characteristics that make it unique. To start with, they are the first truly digital natives, having grown up in a time when the Internet was available, cell phones were common, and social media kept everyone connected. They have no memory of a world before smartphones. This is a very well-educated and a very diverse generational cohort. I will be researching and looking more into how this affects them as leaders and what possible leadership styles will be dominant for this group and will keep you updated on my findings.

Sep 082020

This week was my first time to be featured as a guest blogger. I felt honored to be asked, especially considering the great work Ashley Freeman is doing to inspire others through Flourishing Work.

This is a great time for Millennials to step up and use the leadership traits they excel in to provide excellent leadership for their organization or cause. Four areas in which Millennials have an advantage over their older co-workers are: technology, passion, collaboration, and social consciousness. Read what I wrote about this at  and check out what Ashley’s doing while you are there.

Sep 042020

Even before the pandemic there was starting to be a shift in how we work, but now it seems even more pronounced. What we have referred to as work life balance for years has become work life blend. As younger, more tech savvy individuals start to dominate the workplace and the technology continues to advance, the idea of having work with you all the time becomes more of a reality. At first this was looked at as an advantage by the digital natives who could leave the office and still be available if they were needed. But to some it became a burden as they realized they could never get away from work. What seemed to be a good way of balancing life with work was becoming a blend of perpetual life and work with little distinction.

Then along came COVID-19 and changed everything. With the quarantines and work from home orders, the ability to work from home and balance the rest of life was a real bonus for the technically adept generation. At the same time, it was a headache of how to learn to rely on technology for those, mostly older workers, who were not comfortable with technology.

How well you adapt to these changes can depend on your age or what generational group you fit with. What’s changed over the years? If you look at different generational groups and their view of work, a lot has changed.

Generational Group How they look at work What’s work life balance?
Veteran Sacrifice, hard work, respect for authority, separation of work and family Balance involves defined roles keeping work and home life separated.
Baby Boomer Long hours, teamwork, consensus Balance means juggling everything while I look for meaning in my life.
Generation X Self reliance, creativity, adaptability I want to find balance now, not when I’m 65.
Millennial Speed, networking, problem solving, engaging with authority, meeting challenges with optimism Work isn’t everything. I need flexibility so I can balance all my activities (family, friends, community service).


As the next generation of leaders recognizes the value of life and their purpose for work as more than earning as much recognition or money as possible, the priorities change.  Looking after family, spending time with each other, and taking care of those in the community in need of help all become important parts of the equation.

As Generation Z enters the workforce with no memory of life before smartphones, staying connected and blending all parts of life as needed may seem natural, unless they begin to find a way to make a clear distinction between different aspects of their online life and separate their work and non-work life.

Jun 262019

I felt honored to be invited to be a guest on a podcast by two millennials who discuss millennial topics. It was a lot of fun and I hope you will check it out to hear our discussion of some interesting current topics and their thoughts on my book, Millennials Taking the Lead.

Here’s a link to the podcast:

Here’s a link to buy the book:

or buy my book by clicking on Buy tab.


Apr 112018

I’m a little off topic from my usual blog posts but I feel compelled to write something about the issues with Facebook and user privacy. I was shocked to hear Sheryl Sandberg say in a television interview with Savannah Guthrie that Facebook users would need to pay to opt out of having their personal information available to others. I wanted to say, “Lean into the real world Sheryl Sandberg.” Is she so far out of touch with reality that she doesn’t hear herself and understand what she is saying? Of course, we can all opt out for free by deleting Facebook from our computers, smartphones, and tablets. Is that what they want us to do? It appears that Sheryl Sandberg, Mark Zuckerberg, and others at Facebook are so absorbed with themselves that they have no idea what it is like to be an everyday user of their service. With over 30 years of experience in financial and human resource data, I have always had my doubts that Facebook was taking responsibility for securing personal data in the way that they should and have tried to be careful about the way I used the service. But, there is no excuse for their irresponsibility with personal data, data security, and data privacy in today’s world of information security.

Feb 272018

Millennial leaders believe leaders do the right thing… for the right reasons. It seems that this age group understands “right” from “wrong” and wants to pick “right” for the right reasons. You may hear them say it is important to choose “the hard right over the easy wrong.” How is this different from previous generations?

Millennials usually see a clearer path and feel that it is easier to pick the right thing compared to people from older generations. They seem to be very aware of mistakes made by previous generations that led to bad outcomes for business. They either studied these cases in school or were impacted directly as they saw their parents lose their jobs when their companies were downsized or filed for bankruptcy. At that point, these future leaders were learning lessons on how they would not behave when they became business leaders.

But how does a leader know what the right thing is? Great leaders genuinely want to do the right thing. They are not thinking about themselves first. Instead, they are thinking about the greater good and deciding if their decisions are the right thing to do.