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Common Purpose / 12 February 2024
Why Cross-Generational Leadership Should Be Trending In 2024
As we navigate an ever-complex world, forming connections with people who are both alike, and unlike yourself is crucial.
They say that with age, comes wisdom. That much might be true, but it is equally true that if you proactively broaden your own knowledge, and open yourself up to diverse perspectives no matter your age, wisdom can be abundant.
This sentiment is more important than ever as we navigate a world that is becoming ever-complex. Forming connections with people both within and outside of our circle is crucial if we are to tackle some of the bigger problems that will impact people all over the world – no matter their demographics, geographies, cultures or industries. And it’s for this reason that cross-generational leadership in the workplace should not only be commonplace, but it should be trending. Why? We’ve outlined some important reasons – just for starters! – below.
1. Diversity of thought sparks innovation
In the workplace, a team of people both young and old can share a range of ideas based on their myriad of experiences and knowledge. This kind of inter-generational thinking fosters an important form of innovation – one that applies to multiple demographics and communities, thus allowing you to reach more people.
If we really are to solve the world’s complex problems, we need fresh and seasoned voices, because the more voices we open ourselves up to, the more perspectives we attain. And the more perspectives we attain, the more tools we have to tackle challenges that come our way.
2. Making way for the new, with the old
As a generation retires from the workplace, another generation enters the workplace. Both are incredibly valuable. As mentioned above, fresh and innovative perspectives from younger generations are essential as we grapple with new, and oftentimes unexpected challenges, but at the same time, older generations can teach us important lessons about overcoming challenges and transition based on their own backgrounds - they've undoubtedly had a lot of practice at it, after all.
Older generations of workers can shed light on the history of the organization or industry in which they work, allowing a deeper understanding of its purpose. They might also share helpful examples about what hasn’t worked for them before, and why. This knowledge transfer can significantly alter the trajectory of an organization as it adapts in an ever-changing world with a new wave of workers. Importantly, these lessons can also alter the career of a young individual, equipping them with new tools and insights as they navigate their professional career.
3. Employee satisfaction
There’s no denying that the workplace has significantly changed, and we’ll forever be talking about the ‘golden age’ of any given industry as a thing long gone. But it’s important to remember that change can be a good thing, namely when it enables better outcomes for more people. In reality, we might just look back at this time as another 'golden age' in itself!
So, as we try to successfully navigate the ever-transitioning workplace, it’s important to be mindful of the experiences of seasoned employees as well as those of younger staff. This includes supporting people who have never experienced structures like flexible working arrangements, or those who are less familiar with new communication channels such as internal instant messaging platforms (as opposed to emails) or Zoom calls (as opposed to in-person meetings). It’s essential that we support those less familiar with these new ways of working so that they are comfortable and more confident in communicating with others. This creates a better and more collaborative atmosphere for all.
On the other side of this, championing cross-generational leadership is also an opportunity for a younger demographic to be mentored, and to learn from the experiences of those who have worked in the industry and witnessed its transition for years. This kind of collaboration fosters deeper connections and enhances employee engagement.
Ultimately, cross-generational leadership has the potential to ultimately open our eyes up to new perspectives, while supporting those through times of change and transition – whether it’s entering the world of work after education, or adapting to a new way of working after dedicating decades of a professional career in the same industry.