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Keeping Generation X, Y and Z From Throwing Away Their Shot at Leading

By Universum on 06/04/2017

One of the strongest songs from the hit musical “Hamilton” is called “My Shot.” The song conveys the urgency that young Alexander Hamilton and his compatriots feel in seizing the moment and taking on the mantle of leadership to set the colonies free. There is an impatience that permeates the melody and embodies the spirit of youth.

Yet today, many members of Generations X, Y and Z are hesitant to seize their opportunities and lead their companies. Your company needs its younger employees to be unafraid to make choices that could ultimately impact the company’s bottom line. A workforce composed of people who are only good at following orders will not last long in a world with increasing complexity that requires everyone to evaluate immense amounts of data and make sound choices based on that analysis.

Universum recently conducted a study on Generations X, Y and Z’s views of leadership. Here are a few insights on why these generations hesitate to take on new responsibilities.

A Little Perspective

Before you can understand these generations’ fears, you have to know how they see themselves. Universum asked each generation to describe themselves, and the results were surprising. The most popular term that Generation Y and Z members used to describe themselves was “lazy,” although Generation Y also described itself as “motivated” and “ambitious.” Hopefully Generation Z’s description of itself is based on a lack of self-confidence it will disappear as the generation matures.

Generation X, on the other hand, is the most confident of the three generations, describing itself as “ambitious,” “dedicated” and “responsible.”

Enthusiasm for Leadership

Given Generation X’s view of itself in comparison to Y and Z, it is surprising that Gen X finds taking leading positions to be the least important. Only 57 percent of Gen X professionals find getting into a leadership position to be important, compared with 64 percent of Gen Y professionals and 63 percent of Gen Z professionals.

This enthusiasm varies based on the person’s cultural heritage and geographical location. For example, professionals in Nordic countries find leadership to be much less important than professionals in Mexico. If your country is multinational, it is important to consider the cultural background of your workforce when assessing their interest in leadership.

Why Reject Leadership

For all three generations, the most compelling reason to avoid leadership positions was stress, with more than 50 percent of each generation saying stress makes leadership unattractive. After that, the reasons for avoiding leadership vary by Generation. X and Y avoid leadership because of its negative effect on work-life balance while Gen Z is more concerned about failing in front of others.
What is especially worrying is that women are more susceptible to the negatives of these pressures; they want to avoid additional stress, are more concerned about poor work-life balance and have a greater fear of failure than men.

There is also a variance in how important each of these factors are by country. For example, stress is a bigger hurdle for Mexican members of Generation Z (83 percent) than in the U.S. (67 percent).

By understanding why the younger generations of your business might avoid responsibility, you can take steps to allay those concerns and build your company’s future leaders. But what will that process be? A good place to begin would be to download Universum’s study on leadership, “Building leaders for the next decade.” If you still have questions, reach out to Universum. They have been helping companies develop leaders for years, and they can help you, too. Don’t let your company’s young employees throw away their shot.