Appreciative Inquiry and Inter-Generational Leadership

Updated: Feb 18

Appreciative Inquiry (AI). It is a set of skills based on positive psychology and the idea of creating a safe environment where people feel free to share and contribute. It is a positive, healthy leadership strategy and all of the generations are drawn to it. America’s culture of freedom connects all the generations in the American workforce. Our free market system is what made our economy the greatest on earth. Current and emerging leaders should develop these skills. AI skills also improve morale, employee satisfaction, and combats employee disengagement.

AI focuses on employee and company strengths. It assists leaders in building equality and diversity in the workplace and uses them as positive sources of energy.[1] AI is a practice that compliments leadership skills in Emotional Intelligence (EI) and Cultural Intelligence (CI). By exercising AI principles, and using EI and CI skills, leaders create a sense of trust within the workplace.


There are six key factors for unlocking the potential of your existing staff and emerging leaders. Each revolves around creating a safe, trusting, freedom-based work environment. America’s culture of freedom is what made our economy the greatest on earth. In the “Change Handbook,” Cooperrider and Whitney list the six freedom factors for Appreciative Inquiry, (AI) as:

  • The freedom to be known in respected work relationships.

  • The freedom to be heard.

  • The freedom to dream in community.

  • The freedom to choose to contribute.

  • The freedom to act with support.

  • The freedom to be positive.

AI helps free up and use the latent knowledge bottled up in your current staff. Free up your staff by weeding out the negative, build on your strengths, and transform your workplace.

(Brown, Homer, & Isaacs, 2007)


I had the privilege to interview the owner and president of a small to medium business (SMB) that coded and sold software for communications companies. The president was a tech-savvy, Gen Xer. As I asked him about his company structure and how he related to his staff, he told me that most of his leaders were Millennials leading other Millennials. The exception was his sales team. He leads them personally because he built his company on his sales abilities.


He had ten salespeople, and he said they were all top performers; A players. There wasn’t a B player in the bunch, much less a C player. However, one day, he had a meeting with them about changing their compensation plan. The team gave him no feedback during or after the session; they just listened to his ideas.


That Thursday, the team asked if they could have a meeting with the president on Friday. He set up the meeting and asked his team to lead it. In the meeting, the team told him they had collectively decided if he changed the compensation plan; they would all resign! He was shocked, in all his Gen X days, he would have never thought white-collar collective bargaining may enter the workforce, much less in his company!


The president didn’t want to lose his team, they were performing well, and the damage to the company would have been severe, so he thanked them for their feedback, and suggested the next time something like this came up, they should tell him their thoughts upfront. He cares about their opinion. He could have avoided this by getting their feedback and ideas before mentioning in passing he was considering the changes. He could have held an Appreciative Inquiry meeting first and allowed them to “share and care.”

[1](Sorenson & Garman, 2013)

CopyRight 2020-2021, Buschman, 2020, Taken from "I Think, You Think, We All Think Differently: Leadership Skills for Millennials and GenZ".


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