Less Generational NonsenseI am fed up with the continuing stream of unsubstantiated psychobabble about how younger generations need to be managed so much differently than previous generations. This usually comes from, or is spouted by “experts” to, mediocre managers who aren’t inspiring leaders.

In their solidly researched book, The Inspiring Leader, Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman provide highly documented evidence that the characteristic of “inspires and motivates others to high performance” is the most powerful factor in great or extraordinary leaders versus good or average supervisors, managers, or executives. Their research with over 200,000 participants evaluating more than 20,000 managers clearly showed that frontline staff and team members value this competency above all others. Not surprisingly, of the 16 competencies Zenger Folkman have identified as key to effectiveness, this vital leadership skill is by far the most vital to employee engagement.

There is a generational difference: younger generations are much less willing to put up with weak leaders who don’t inspire them. Where their parents might have gritted their teeth and trudged on to pay mortgages and feed their families, younger people are much less tied down to any organization or job early in their careers.

Uninspiring managers often say things like, “the work ethic is dying; young people don’t want to work anymore.” That’s complete rubbish! And it’s a convenient excuse weak managers hide behind. In “We Need Less Generational Nonsense and More Leadership I cited Jennifer Deal’s extensive research showing that today’s younger generation is “just as intrinsically motivated as other generations.” So the mediocre manager who wails about younger generations needs to be told the truth: they want meaningful and fulfilling work — just like everyone else. They just don’t want to work for you!

After “We Need Less Generational Nonsense and More Leadership”  was published, two readers posted these comments:

“Thanks Jim! I prefer evidence to anecdote on big matters, and you’ve given us credible evidence — I admire that. And it returns the discourse to leadership and purpose — essentials — rather than distractions.”

– James Hilmar Todd

“What a refreshing article on the generation gap. I have been curious about all the attention on age diversity in the workplace, given my experience over 4 decades in both public and private sector organizations. Clearly these times are not the same as they were years ago, but Jennifer Deal’s research and your commentary certainly rings true for me.”

– Rick Fullerton

What are your thoughts and experiences? Post them below or add them to “We Need Less Generational Nonsense and More Leadership“.