Strategic Leadership for a Generational, Cultural, Gender Diverse Workforce

Choosing to Be a Great Leader

The more mature you grow as a leader, the more you will view the workplace and organizations as systems.  Every aspect of organizational life and business process intertwine with one another.  They create a network of systems or a meta-system.  A change in one system will have a reactive change in another.  Organizations are so much more than groups of people who complete procedures to create value from inputs and outputs.  They are more than profit-making mechanisms.  Corporations consist of living beings, with feelings and needs; each person has a unique reality and experiences at work.  As a leader, your role is to guide them, individually, as teams, and divisions, using your distinctive skills.

One of the most important ideas in leadership development is the concept of “Use of Self.”  The idea is that you are an indispensable tool in your leadership toolbox.  Developing yourself mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually is a crucial step in becoming a great leader.  There are many specialty disciplines within the realm of leadership. 

We need leaders who want to lead us to a future where people are respected, and all four G’s of growth become a reality; consistent growth, competitive growth, profitable growth, and responsible growth.  We need to go beyond talk and act.

executive leadership, G7 master certification, G7 expert

Leadership Development:

Leading in the Generational Shift


Boomers and GenXers must seize the opportunity to impart their knowledge and experience to Millennials. The Millennial workforce is asking for mentors who will give them mutual respect in exchange for their hard work and talent.

Facing the generational shift in the workforce requires:

  • Collaborative teams made up of current and upcoming leadership.

  • A merging of the generations' mindsets.

  • Coordinated efforts for leadership development.

  • Mentoring programs to make sure that the experience and organizational knowledge in upper management are transferred to emerging leaders.

  • An understanding of how each generation thinks

  • Transformation and Change Management

  • Emotional and Cultural Intelligence

  • Appreciative Inquiry

  • Modern Leadership Methods

Growth Leadership


The five pillars of organization leadership for growth:


  • Challenging the status quo with positive innovation.

  • Inspiring a vision and set of goals that result in mutual commitment from all employees.

  • Building teams that are empowered and are interdependent upon one other to succeed.

  • Modeling the behaviors you espouse to others.

  • Encouraging the hearts of employees so that they work through difficult times, striving to achieve the mutual vision and goals set before them (Johnson & Johnson, 2013).


As the world’s best leaders develop strategies and business models to ensure growth in the volatile, unpredictable, complex ambiguous (VUCA) world, leadership itself is evolving. Leaders are designing organizations strategically to create autopoietic systems (auto-poy-etic systems: life-sustaining systems that reproduce and perpetuate themselves automatically).  When designed well, they cut waste and weed out unhealthy processes. Creating and maintaining autopoietic systems keeps organizations vital, full of life, and promotes growth and the revitalization of stalled initiatives.  When done well they support all five of the pillars of growth.

Positive People Management

..."To shift a company’s thinking on people management, we must engage human resources (HR) and corporate training to educate leaders on the difference between positive people management, i.e. Human Resource Management (HRM), and traditional people management, i.e. Human Capital Theory (HCT).  Why is it important to understand the difference between HRM and HCT?  One imprisons individual creativity and team power, and one sets them free!  Human Resource Management creates a safe environment that empowers teamwork and unlocks creative potential.   When employees feel safe, they are not afraid to share their ideas and opinions.  Whether individually or in groups, HRM uses positive psychology to encourage employees to bring their best efforts and intentions.  HRM and positive leadership psychology are proven methods to maximize organizational performance.


HCT is a traditional form of management and has not been able to account for inequalities in the workplace.  Earlier in the “We Were Cogs in a Machine” section, we talked about how it dehumanizes employees and treats them as objects from which to make a profit.  HCT assumes that labor market conditions are gender-neutral, non-bias and that the matching of workers to job roles is efficient.  These are faulty assumptions and perpetuate workplace inequality, such as the gender wage gap.   Inequalities reduce an organization’s ability to meet workers’ social needs, and thereby produce lower morale. Low morale can result in lower productivity, and lower productivity results in poor company performance.  Many times, companies who practice HCT adopt unhealthy practices to avoid the lower productivity it produces.


Alternatives to traditional management theories began to surface in the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s.  Chris Argyris’ organizational learning, Frederick Herzberg’s motivation, and Douglas McGregor’s X-Y Management theories began applying Organization Development (OD) ideas and democratic rule to the workplace.  These social scientists created alternatives to bureaucratic, top-down, centralized management.  It wasn’t until the 1960s that Human Resource Management theory (HRM) became widely known.  HRM motivates workers by meeting their needs.  The original set of needs was Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs; physiological, security, social, ego, and self-actualizing.


Think about the timing of HRMs arrival in light of the generational shift happening in today’s workforce.  The older generation’s learned HCT.  HCT creates a division of labor between management and workers.  It then uses the division to justify authoritative management rule, which demoralizes workforces.  It squashes creativity and individualism and discourages innovation.  It imprisons a workforce, does not appreciate diversity, and is single-loop, closed-system oriented.  


Ask yourself and other generations about these HCT characteristics:


  • How does it make you feel to be treated as an object from which someone else makes a profit, i.e., produces capital?

  • How does it feel to have your human needs ignored in the workplace?

  • Is using money and punishment as motivators, the best way to motivate you?

  • How does not being able to overcome or solve discrimination issues such as the gender wage gap and other inequalities affect your attitude and commitment to your employer?

  • How do you feel when the workplace discourages you from sharing ideas, suggesting change, and taking on innovative challenges?


Write down your answers.  Now compare your answers to the following reasons people and high performers typically leave jobs. 


According to the Harvard Business Review, “generally people leave their jobs because they don’t like their boss, don’t see opportunities for promotion or growth, or are offered a better gig (and often higher pay); these reasons have held steady for years.”  However, “it’s not just what happens at work—it’s what happens in someone’s personal life that determines when he or she decides to look for a new job,” Brian Kropp of CEB, Washington, D.C.


The top six reasons top-performers leave are:


  • Tired of absorbing extra work others don’t get done.

  • Work is not challenging, so they disengage.

  • Prevented from following new ideas and feel stifled.

  • No professional development opportunities.

  • Not appreciated or recognized for their work.

  • Unfair compensation; includes more than money.


HRM practices can help address these reasons.  By nature, it is people-centered, open-system oriented, and considers external socioeconomic factors that affect meeting employees’ needs.  HRM led companies, ask for external input, incorporate leading practices, and take advice from consultants and experts.  They embrace innovation, change, creativity, and listen to employee feedback.  The bottom line is that HRM is conscious of the human side of leading and does a better job of managing, motivating, developing, and retaining talent." (Buschman, 2020)


Resources: (Huffman, 2012), (Morgan, 2006), (Bronner, 2011), (Harvard Business Review, 2016), (Prossack, 2018)

Mentoring and Reverse Mentoring


The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects, “between 2014 and 2024, 36.4 million workers will enter the labor force, and 28.6 million will leave”.  Its statistics reveal that the makeup of the workforce is changing; it is getting older.  Considering the changes coming and the effects they will have on team power, leaders need to re-evaluate their current workgroup makeup.  If the team mix doesn’t represent members from all stages of life and different skillsets, change it.  Start thinking about pairing emerging leaders with retiring leaders so that there is at least one leader in the bullpen.  Encourage retirees to mentor incoming leaders.  Leaders must begin looking at upcoming retirements and promotions and purposefully create transition plans.  There are so many Boomers who will retire; it is crucial to help prevent the loss of institutional knowledge and wisdom.


Those in leadership should be able to lead and manage the diverse workforce and adapt to these inevitable changes.  Current and emerging leaders need to embrace their generational differences to avoid significant talent and performance deficits as this transition takes place.


When it comes to change, it’s a good idea to be an early adopter and not a laggard.  It’s not enough to go with the current flow.  Leaders must be able to identify future needs.  Over the next ten years, in the public and private sectors, leadership training and mentoring programs will be crucial.  Management should consider using mentorship programs, generational diversity training, and enhanced communication methods.  These can reach and accommodate each generation’s preferences fostering productivity that supports the work environment.  Not taking advantage of the wisdom and knowledge of those who will be retiring makes no sense.  Mentoring younger leaders infuse purpose and meaning into the latter days of a person’s career and helps re-engage disengaged workers." (Buschman, 2020)

Mentors and mentees must be aware of the differences in communication norms and be prepared to adapt. As children, Millennials were encouraged to speak and interact with adults, teachers, and coaches. The effect has been the propensity to interrupt managers and superiors, causing difficulties in relationships, respect, and middle management’s ability to get their work completed.


One generation sees interruptions as disrespectful, while the other sees them as their opportunity to provide input. Better expectation setting through mentorship can mitigate difficulties in communication styles.

Mentoring programs can assist with bridging differences in viewpoints. READ MORE...There is a need to instill the value of meritocracy in the workforce. There is also a need for positive support systems from managers to subordinates. Mentoring programs can deliver both. These needs stem from the reality that many Millennial employees were raised by parents, teachers, coaches, and others who made them feel accepted regardless of their performance or the outcome of their work. The sense of entitlement and auto-acceptance in the Millennial generation is pervasive.

Resources: (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2015), (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019),(Green & Roberts, 2012),(Kapoor & Solomon, 2011). Greg Buschman, Ph.D. (c) CopyRight 2020 © all rights reserved. "I Think, You Think, We All Think Differently: Leadership Skills for Millennials and Gen Z".

Leading Millennials & Gen Z:

Transformation & Servant-Based Leadership

Not All Generations View Leadership The Same.


Ten Leadership Theories You Should Be Aware Of...Click Here!

One fascinating truth about younger generations is that whether their ethical beliefs lean toward Idealism or Relativism, is that they perform better as individuals and in workgroups, and have fewer ethical workplace violations when led by a Servant Based Leadership model. This is likely because they are more socially aware than their older counterparts.  


Some Millennials have even stated that they place their followers and direct reports wellbeing above organizational goals.  No matter what ideological category Millennials fall into, they are more likely to be forgiving and overlook ethical violations than other generations.  Servant leadership alone can not deal with all of the social constructs of today's workforce.  Aspects of other leadership styles are needed.  The value systems of each generation were formed in the time and society in which they grew up.  Leaders must understand these differences, "I Think, You Think, We All Think, Differently", Greg Buschman, Ph.D.(c).

"Unlocking Employee Potential with Creative Problem Solving


Creative Problem Solving (CPS) has its roots in marketing and advertising.  Alex Osborn, the founder of the Creative Education Foundation, was an advertising executive and created creating thinking and brainstorming.  In the 1920s and ‘30s, he and three gentlemen owned the largest advertising agency in the United States, BBDO.  You might have heard of it, today it generates over $15 billion in revenue and goes by the name of the Omnicom Group of Companies.  CPS uses scientific research and behavioral psychology to create innovative ways to solve problems.  Brainstorming was just the first.  There are many augmentations and new strategies.  Some I’m sure you’ve heard of like SWOT analysis, SMART goal creation, Blue Ocean strategies, and Mind Mapping. 


A widely adopted method for high-performance team-building is the FourSight Creative method, which we mentioned earlier in Chapter Six on Transformation Leadership.  IBM, NASA, USBank, L'Oréal, Nike, and other mega organizations use this method to assign roles within workgroups in a way that bolsters creativity, innovation, and project success.  Its strategy identifies the way employees think and places them into four categories of thinker types; Clarifiers, Ideators, Developers, and Implementers.  Armed with this knowledge, leaders can intelligently assign roles within workgroups.  The FourSight Creative method is proving to be a game-changer in problem-solving and team performance management..." (Buschman, 2020).

Resources: (Omnicom Group, 2019), (FourSight, 2018)

© 2016 - 2020 Gregory Buschman, Ph.D.(c) All rights reserved.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter