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.

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 http://bit.ly/guest-blog-millennials  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: https://soundcloud.com/user-215536382/episode-93-dr-carolyn-fore

Here’s a link to buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=Millennials+taking+the+lead&ref=nb_sb_noss

or buy my book by clicking on Buy tab.


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.

Feb 202018

Millennials learned about helping others at an early age, often through school projects focused on community service. Many Millennial leaders say they first learned their leadership skills by working on teams focused on social services or helping others. Their college applications listed community volunteer work and the accomplishments they had already achieved in their efforts to help others while making sure they were keeping up with their peers. This work of helping others continued during college as their compassion was demonstrated through their choices of summer internships and volunteerism in the local communities.

Awareness of social issues and commitment to volunteerism continue to be important values to Millennials when they are considering where they want to work and how they feel about the leaders they work with. Millennial leaders want to work for a company that has the same social responsibility values they have. Leaders in today’s organizations must recognize this community service and social awareness drive in their Millennial leaders if they want to keep them engaged and inspired in the vision of the company. Having a company social responsibility component in the mission means a lot more when part of the profits are automatically donated to a worthy cause. Another way to accomplish this can be an annual fundraiser that everyone can contribute to, either financially or through their efforts. This idea is even better if customers are involved in contributing to the efforts. One other way that Millennials can see their company and its leadership showing their concern for social responsibility is in how they allow individuals or groups to take time away from work for volunteer efforts. It can be a great show of community spirit to allow a department to participate at the food bank or in a disaster relief effort together and not make them take the time spent as vacation time.

These concerns for social responsibility are the reasons Millennials think so highly of companies that use the one for one giving model like TOMS Shoes, Warby Parker, Bombas, and BetterWorldBooks, and other socially responsible companies like Zappos and Salesforce. Many of the more established companies like GE, Cisco, IBM, and Deloitte have taken notice and jumped to the top of the lists in corporate social responsibility in order to attract Millennials.

Millennials are carefully watching how their organization handles situations involving community service and social responsibility and deciding if it aligned with their values. If it is, they are more likely to be more dedicated to the company, and if it isn’t, they will soon find another place to work.

Feb 052018

Each generation applies fundamental characteristics of leadership in their own unique way. Trust is one of those characteristics that is noticeably different between generations. Each generation views it as an important leadership quality, they just look at it differently. The Millennial generation has a reputation for being open, self-assured, hopeful, well educated, and goal oriented. Millennials have benefited from each of the three older generations, learning allegiance and trust in organizations from Traditionalists, confidence and optimism from Baby Boomers, and a healthy dose of skepticism from Generation X. Millennials refocused the allegiance and trust in organizations they learned from Traditionalists to allegiance and trust in relationships. The confidence and optimism they learned from Baby Boomers helped Millennials turn the skepticism they learned from Generation X into an ability to look at the present more realistically than Baby Boomers, while still maintaining a positive outlook about the future.

Honesty and trust may be more important than ever in today’s world of social media and increased speed and breadth of communications. Leaders must quickly learn who they can trust in a world where messages and reputations are open to many viewers. This transparency leads to an understanding of the reasons behind a leader’s actions, which need to be for the right motivation, or the trust will be lost.

As an essential characteristic of leadership, there are three components of trust in the view of the Millennial leader:

  1. The organization’s vision should be trustworthy for all involved, i.e. for the greater good.
  2. Leadership is honest and transparent and can be trusted.
  3. Millennials are competent and can be trusted.

Millennials expect a lot of communications and feedback. Those in leadership roles want to know even more about their own performance, their team’s performance, and the company’s. Some recommendations for feedback to Millennials include:

  • Updates on the vision and goals and how it relates to their role
  • Status of their projects, including feedback on project success
  • Individual feedback, with more responsibility after action or success

Millennial leaders often value the role of a coach or other role model in encouraging them to step into a leadership role or to recognize they were viewed as a leader and to embrace it. An additional aspect of the coach as a leadership influence is the disillusionment of learning, as these Millennial leaders have become adult leaders, that not all coaches are good, honest, and trustworthy.

Learn more about Millennial leaders and their leadership style by buying my book. Available by clicking the Buy tab above.

Jan 262018

Millennial leaders say they are motivated by passion. You may think, what’s the big deal? After all, isn’t everyone more motivated when they are passionate about what they are working on? Yes, but the NEED to be passionate about their work is unique to Millennials compared to older generations. Millennials say passion drives their desire to be inspired to leadership and to accomplish goals. While other generations will agree that having passion for their work or a project is nice, when asked what drives them to be good leaders they are more likely to say accomplishing goals, money, success, family, civic duty, recognition, or a few other things before they say passion. Millennial leaders feel that passion for their work or a goal drives them to be leaders. Frequently it was the passion to accomplish something that made them step into a leadership role.

If you are a manager from another generational group working with a Millennial, you may find this challenging. Why should you care if the Millennial feels passionate about their work? This is their job to self-motivate so they care about being at work every day. But again, Millennials don’t always see it that way. As a group that looks at leaders as people who inspire them, they expect the leaders of their organizations to provide them with the inspiration and enthusiasm that helps promote the passion they should feel for the work they are doing. If their leaders aren’t passionate about the organization, how can the workers be passionate and, in turn, how can they be motivated to do their jobs. It’s just a different way of looking at it. My take on it is that putting some enthusiasm into your work has always had its payback but this is true more than ever if you have Millennials on your team.

My book is now available and the information is on the blog under a different tab. I hope you will find it interesting and helpful if you are in the workplace and trying to understand some of the generational issues in the leadership ranks.