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            [post_title] => IMI Multigenerational Workforce
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            [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_22612" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Jack Welch was CEO of GE for 20 years. In a changing world, is he still the model for leadership? Jack Welch was CEO of GE for 20 years. In a changing world, is he still the model for leadership?[/caption]


When discussing the challenges facing business leaders it seems almost de rigeur nowadays to talk about the level of change organisations are facing.

The challenge to equip leaders to build the future in these uncertain times is certainly daunting, with seismic geopolitical shifts (in this context the Trump administration seems to be the gift that keeps on giving), disruptive technological change (how many of us even fully understand the implications of bitcoin, blockchain and whatever new technology will be unleashed on us next) and even severe climate and weather events.

The very ubiquitous nature of these challenges may however inure us to their real potential as both a threat and an opportunity to affect a true paradigm shift in how we view leadership, a classic case of an issue being undervalued through overuse.


The Concept of Leadership

From the perspective of the 21st century the development of our concept of leadership is a little clearer than it may have been in the past.  From this remove we can see how the largely male, heroic models of leadership have greatly influenced the literature and teaching in this field.

The business leaders who are most often cited, Jack Welch, Steve Jobs etc. are broadly from a similar mould and the models of leadership, with the exception of Servant Leadership (as a servant leader you put the needs of others, particularly team members, before you even consider your own, but how many executives really model themselves on this type of leadership?) extol an assertive, confident, out-going and mainly extroverted style.

In fact, the Myers Briggs type most associated with leadership is the ENTJ (extraversion, intuition, thinking, judgment), which is described as the ‘general’, again exposing the military underpinnings of the leadership canon. We can clearly see this bias in the continuing popularity of books like Dale Carnegie’s “How to win friends and influence people”, the pseudoscience of NLP and programmes that teach executives how to create the right ‘impression’.

Given the genesis of the leadership concept it is understandable that people might misconstrue the notion of leadership presence as the ability to impose oneself (and influence people), but there is real hope that we are about to experience a genuine shift in the paradigm.

Unhappy Influencers

[caption id="attachment_22617" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Richard Boyatzis studied how leaders influence those around them Richard Boyatzis studied how leaders influence those around them and how that effected their lives and careers[/caption]

Recent research conducted by Richard Boyatzis and colleagues from Case Western Reserve University examined the relationship between the extent to which people adopted an ‘influencing’ leadership style and their later satisfaction with both their careers and their life in general.  Interestingly they found a very strong negative correlation between these factors, i.e. the more people adopted an influence style the less satisfied they were with their careers and lives.

Boyatzis and colleagues did not have an objective measure of career success, so one could still argue that the ‘influencers’ did better in their careers, but Boyatzis’ research does tell us that irrespective on how well an outsider might judge your career progress, the ‘influencers’ are less happy about their situation.  The researchers concluded that those who adopt an influencing style are pushing on their environment and trying to get more from others, e.g. they tend to show a high need to control social situations.

The crux of the problem, especially in the context of a VUCA world, is that pushing on or trying to control an environment that is in a constant state of flux, verging on chaos is unlikely to be very effective and will certainly lead to people being highly dissatisfied and unhappy in their work and indeed their lives.

Now would be the perfect time for the leadership movement to learn the lessons of evolutionary psychology that success in a changing environment falls to the most adaptable, those who can outlearn their competition.


The Adaptable Generation

This will require a cadre of new leaders who are less ego-identified with success and winning, who don’t see problems as opportunities to impose themselves and demonstrate mastery of the environment.

Rather we will see the emergence of leaders who can go with the flow, adapt to new realities quickly, work through and with others as either leader or follower and pivot gracefully as cherished paradigms fall away and hard-earned experience proves ineffective as a guide to new problems.

There is no doubt that the idea of women in leadership is in the current zeitgeist and may or may not create a fundamental shift in how we see leadership in the future.  I am however hopeful, that as the new model emerges we will see less emphasis on the old machismo of the ability to impose oneself on others and on the environment and more emphasis on the willingness to adapt, change and ‘flow’ with emerging realities.

Bruce Lee used to tell his students to ‘be like water’, perhaps that is not a bad metaphor for what leaders will need to become.


imi-colm-foster-810Dr Colm Foster is Director of Executive Education at the Irish Management Institute. He has acted as a leadership development consultant to organisations in the US, Asia and Ireland, particularly specialising in Emotional Intelligence.

The next IMI Diploma in Leadership starts on 2nd May, 2018.
            [post_title] => 21st Century Leadership: The Shifting River
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            [post_content] => Due to a number of factors such as technology and globalisation our day to day lives - whether business or personal increasingly involve broader international networks.  And while in the IMI blog we often consider our "effectiveness" in how we interact with and manage others but all too often we do not discuss the critical factors of nationality and culture.

How do cultural differences impact on your ability to do business? And how can we make sure we are maximising our relationships with those in our network who may be operating with cultural differences to our own.  

Erin Meyer is a professor at INSEAD, one of the world's leading international business schools. Her work has appeared in Harvard Business Review, Singapore Business Times and Forbes.com. In 2013 the Thinkers 50 named her as one of 30 up-and-coming thinkers and in October 2013 British Airways Business Life magazine on their list of 'Ten Dons to Watch'. Her work focuses on how the world's most successful global leaders navigate the complexities of cultural differences in an international environment.  


IMI: Based on your current work - if you only had 6 words of advice to give a business - what would they be?

EM: Succeed Globally with a Culture Map

IMI: What does this mean?

EM: Today, whether we work with colleagues in Dusseldorf or Dubai, Brasilia or Beijing, New York or New Delhi, we are all part of a global network (real or virtual, physical or electronic) where success requires navigating through wildly different cultural realities. Unless we know how to decode other cultures and avoid easy-to-fall-into cultural traps, we are easy prey to misunderstanding, needless conflict, and ultimate failure.

Yet most managers have little understanding of how local culture impacts global interaction. Even those who are culturally informed, travel extensively, and have lived abroad often have few strategies for dealing with the cross-cultural complexity that affects their team's day-to-day effectiveness.

To help people improve their ability to decode the cultural differences impacting their work and to enhance their effectiveness in dealing with these differences, I have built on the work of many in my field to develop a tool called the Culture Map. It is made up of eight scales representing the management behaviours where cultural gaps are most common.

The eight scales are based on decades of academic research into culture from multiple perspectives. To this foundation I have added my own work, which has been validated by extensive interviews with thousands of executives who have confirmed or corrected my findings.   The scales are:
  • Communicating: explicit vs. implicit
  • Evaluating: direct criticism vs. indirect criticism
  • Leading: egalitarian vs. hierarchical
  • Deciding: consensual vs. top down
  • Trusting: task vs. relationship
  • Disagreeing: confrontational vs. avoidance
  • Scheduling: linear-time vs. flexible-time
  • Persuading: applications-first vs. principles-first
By analyzing the relative positioning of one nationality to another on each scale, managers learn to decode how culture influences day-to-day international collaboration and therefor avoid the common pitfalls. Managers have always needed to understand human nature and personality differences – that’s nothing new. What is new is that twenty-first century managers must understand a wider, richer array of work styles than ever before. They have to be able to determine which aspects of their interactions are simply a result of personality and which are a result of differences in cultural perspective. IMI: Where should we look for further information? EM: Read The Culture Map: Breaking Through the Invisible Boundaries of Global Business.  Or my HBR article:  Navigating the Cultural Minefield www.erinmeyer.com. Erin Meyer will be holding a Masterclass at IMI on September 30th.  If you are interested in attending click here to register. [post_title] => "Decode cultural differences to suceed globally" Six Word Wisdom from Erin Meyer [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => six-word-wisdom-erin-mayer [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-05-11 21:04:07 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-05-11 21:04:07 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.imi.ie/?p=8010 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) )
Fabio Grassi

Fabio Grassi

4th Apr 2017

Fabio Grassi is an IMI associate who teaches on IMI Diploma in Executive Coaching & High Performance Teams. 

Related Articles

IMI Multigenerational Workforce
21st Century Leadership: The Shifting River
"Decode cultural differences to suceed globally" Six Word Wisdom from Erin Meyer

Bridging The Generational Gap In Modern Organisations

Not for the first time in recent years we face the dilemma of engaging a multi-generational workforce. The workplace has always had multiple generations at work at the same time, and there have always been challenges and gaps between generations in work as in society. In some ways, it is a necessity for any society to have such generational gaps as they fuel innovation that prompts positive change and evolution.

Every new generation has commonalities with older generations. (Photo source)

I believe that before we look at the generational difference in the workplace, we have to understand individuality. First and foremost each person brings a unique combination of attitudes, behaviours, strengths, and talents to the workplace. These unique combinations are not fixed but are influenced by everyday experiences. Therefore, when we engage with people in the workplace, such interactions are setting the premise of the way we work with each other.

The outcome of each interaction is a shared responsibility.

Every new generation has commonalities with older generations. For example, younger generations tend to be more idealistic in their outlook of the world. They are enthusiastic and willing to succeed but usually are not too clear about what they would like to succeed at. Newer generations are also often very ingenious, full of ideas but lack the experience to communicate these thoughts.

Older generations, on the contrary, can be disillusioned, attached to modes of working that they have practised over time. Older generations are influenced by a large body of experiences and therefore less keen on changing too quickly and more sensitive to potential risks.

All of these are generalised patterns of course, but they immediately provide an insight into the kind of generational conflicts that commonly arise in the workplace.

Working with many graduates, I get interesting but obvious answers when I ask the question “which behaviour do you find most challenging dealing with people in the workplace?” The answers are very consistent:

  • Unwillingness to change
  • Not open to new ideas
  • Dismissive attitudes
  • Don’t follow through
  • Not willing to share
  • Set unrealistic expectations
  • They keep dumping work on me!

On the contrary working with older generations of managers the answers I get in relation to graduate behaviours are:

  • They all want to become executives tomorrow
  • They don’t have relevant experience
  • They don’t seem to understand the concept of responsibility
  • They have very high expectations but are not willing to put in the work
  • They seem to know everything even if they don’t
  • They have no idea how things really work.

It seems clear to me that the most effective way for older generations to work with newer generations is to pay attention to the behaviour they demonstrate in the first place.

It’s on the shoulders of the older generation to take on the roles of mentor and supporter not only in building work experience but also in navigating the challenges newer generations face when entering the workplace.

Empathy plays a critical role here, taking the time to understand graduates’ perspectives and help them find a way to work through the challenges they encounter in influencing people around them, considering and exploring key stakeholder perspectives, and in developing confidence and credibility.

Indeed, the impact of technology on millennials has changed significantly the way new generations engage with each other. It is critical to recognise how they usually engage from behind the safety of social media networks, where it’s easy to express one’s opinion and shape one’s identity.

Face to face engagements on serious issues can be daunting for them. It is important for older generations to spend time building trust, confidence and psychological safety to help them become comfortable with relevant performance conversation.

New generations need a lot of feedback but they also need to be involved and listened to, they need to be helped engage in adult to adult conversations rather than parent to child conversations.

Another critical difference the age of technology has brought about in the new generations is the easy access to a wealth of information, which is often not necessarily verifiable. This situation has brought about three critical challenges.

  • Because information is at their fingertips, they don’t need to remember it, and therefore the missing memorisation process of association causes them to evaluate information superficially. They usually find it hard to connect information and develop deep complex thinking.
  • Because their sources are often unchecked, it is easy for them to take on misguided positions with all the potential consequences these can bring on when making critical decisions.
  • Because everything is at their fingertips the idea of waiting for change to happen and sticking to hard work to achieve specific results is usually a challenge.

The role of older generations in helping and supporting younger generations to develop as individuals is critical. Graduates have a lot to offer to any organisation, but in order for them to contribute effectively, it is important to create the appropriate environment for them to thrive. Such an environment starts with good role models who provide healthy examples of behaviour while paying attention, listening and remaining open to new ideas.

Fabio Grassi is an IMI associate who teaches on IMI Diploma in Executive Coaching & High Performance TeamsFabio is a specialist in the development of team performance, collaboration and motivation.