Why Degrees in Organizational Leadership Will Shape the Future of the Workforce and Workplace

By Kimberly Hardy and Barry Stocks - December 28th, 2018

Leadership is changing. With the millennial generation poised to take over the majority of the workforce by 2025, succession planning and leadership-development initiatives should be one of the top priorities for organizations. These initiatives especially pertain to those who want to capitalize on present dynamic capabilities, while creating the right environments for new ones to emerge and flourish. However, organizations are currently facing barriers to leadership development that could threaten the bottom line.

The concept of a multi-generational workforce is nothing new; yet, there remains a huge gap in executing leadership succession planning and development. A degree in Organizational Leadership can help close this gap.

The making of a Change Leader

An degree in organizational leadership prepares individuals to find solutions that break cognitive barriers in the workplace. The experience an individual brings to the table is taken to another level, a combination that serves to bolster the ability to use social learning and emotional intelligence in transforming organizations. By applying this new knowledge, students of leadership become change agents in their respective fields, enabling them to find effective solutions for collaboration.

So what is a change leader, and how do we prepare a new generation of change leaders in today’s workplace? A change leader is an individual with the ability to influence and empower others throughout an organization to implement change in support of a greater vision.

Millennial disconnect

There are numerous myths floating around about the new and upcoming generation of leadership, also known as Generation Y.  Most of them are centered on a perspective of entitlement and a general lack of organizational commitment. Others are based on unsubstantiated notions that the new generation is more narcissistic and selfish. Both assumptions cannot be further from the truth and academic literature debunks these myths in their entirety.

However, a study conducted in the UK from the Community Work & Family academic journal, reveals that the millennial generation’s perceptions of entitlement are the exact opposite of what has been presented. There was little to no sense of entitlement perceived in the new generation of leadership. In fact, other studies have shown that this generation favors socially responsible organizations, and purposefully seeks employers that are involved in the local or global communities they serve.

So, why do these myths still exist and how can we move past them? Well, the answers can be found in what Harvard Business Review calls “advantage blindness”. According to Fuchs, “Our research on speaking truth to power shows there is often a blind spot among the powerful, preventing them from seeing their impact on the less powerful.” Why does this matter? Bringing light to this understanding is important in creating an environment that allows leadership to flourish among different generations of people. This is the key to ensuring that young leaders are ready for increasing complexity.

Intergenerational Collaboration & Social Media

Keeping multi-generational leaders actively engaged plays an important role in organizations’ social learning . Both millennial and seasoned professionals need to know they are valued team members. Younger leaders are often more interested in jobs that are stimulating, exciting and rewarding. Additionally, they expect consistent feedback and coaching.

By encouraging their resourcefulness and collaborative approach to work, critical thinking and leadership skills can be refined and improved with the use of social media platforms to communicate for work projects.

Now What?

The key to intergenerational collaboration is adapting to the new norm of the current leadership landscape. What does this mean? It means that leadership development should be accelerated. How is this accomplished? By focusing on short-term and immersive leadership development, where the challenges of volatility, complexity, and ambiguity of the business environment can be replicated in short term assignments and experiences. The following methods may help to break intergenerational barriers in the workplace.

  1. Intergenerational professional networking events: By holding intergenerational professional networking events on a quarterly basis, millennials are encouraged to talk with senior professionals outside of their departments. These conversations can help to generate ideas, build trust, and generate support and motivation.
  2. Reverse mentoring opportunities / programs: Often, mentoring relationships consist of a more experienced individual providing guidance or advice to a novice. However, in reverse mentoring situations, the junior professional provides guidance or advice on a specific expertise to the senior professional. This mentoring relationship is gaining more popularity because it encourages individuals from different generations to learn from each other.
  3. Global assignments / short-term projects: Millennials grew up in the digital age without boundaries. The idea of a global perspective is nothing new for this group of up and coming leaders. Global assignments build leadership skills and improve employee retention.

With rapid global, generational, and technological change, interactivity gives way to thought leadership, brand ambassadors, and storytellers. A multigenerational workplace in which knowledge is shared and leadership flourishes encourages open flows of communication, flexible hierarchies, distributed resources, distributed decision making, and loosening of centralized controls. It leads to organizational collaboration and sustainability for the future of the workplace and workforce.

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