The Challenges Involved With Business Leadership

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The world today is involved with the challenges of leadership with various generations. As the workforce contains differing generations with different values and views of the world, there is an amount of conflict that can occur and how one can address these concerns. In her article Generational Diversity Roberta Jackson states, "For the first time, four generations work side by side in the workforce" (Jackson, Paragraph 1). "This is an exciting time because a workforce comprised of various generations brings a unique richness to our workforce" (Jackson, Paragraph 1). In striving to bring these generations together to work effectively, this paper will introduce the various generation's ideas, values, and work ethics. The paper will explore ideas and recommendations on how to lead such a diverse group of individuals.

In order to add a successful generational differences component to the company, it's critical to understand the three generations and the characteristics of each. Existing in the workforce today are baby boomers, Generation X and Generation Y. Together, the different personalities of each generation work together to form the workforce that exists today.

Baby Boomers consist of those that were born between 1946 and 1964; they are characterized by social change and increasing affluence, because they grew up in a time of affluence. As a group, they were the healthiest and wealthiest generation to that time, growing up genuinely expecting the world to improve with time (Simons, 2010).

Boomers tend to think of themselves as a special generation and the assassinations of the Kennedy brothers and Dr. Martin Luther King, deeply affected them and fueled their fire in rejecting or redefining traditional values. Their business and government practices focus on physical, centralized, and institutionalized paper filing. Boomers have significant respect for institutional information; and they view technologies used for managing matters of record as artifacts of the organizational culture (Simons, 2010).

This generation grew up in a time when people had to make sacrifices. They were also the target of persuasive doses of optimism, and of government pledges to sweep out all corruption and inefficiency from public administration. They also experienced a military takeover and witnessed the transformation of the concept of democracy into a radical rejection of disorder (Motta & Schewe, 2008).

Generation X

Generation X consists of those born between 1965 and 1981. They are normally characterized as cynical, pessimistic and individualist and are known for being comfortable with change and diversity. Some feel that they are not likely to be loyal to a company as a result of being independent and self-sufficient. Because of this, they are seen to be more likely to leave a job and seek out more challenging options, a higher salary, or improved benefits (Wong, Gardiner, Lang & Coulon, 2008).

Xers are skeptical and unimpressed with authority, and require immediate, continuous feedback. They tend to value a strong work-life balance; caring for personal values and goals more than work-related goals (Wong, Gardiner, Lang & Coulon, 2008).

This generation grew up in a time of their parents getting laid off and their mothers going to work to support the family. Since both parents were at work, members of this generation were seen as "latch key" kids. Seeing their parents laid off, made them put family before work, learning to never put all their trust in one company.

Generation Y

Generation Y consists of those born between 1982 and 2000. This generation has grown up with technology and is used to having technology as a large part of their life. Also known as the Millennials, they are very comfortable with change and less likely to see job security as an important factor in the workplace. This generation is just starting to graduate and go into the workforce, bringing a plethora of ideas (Gibson, Greenwood & Murphy, 2009).

They were raised with MTV, cell phones, iPods, and computer games and are totally at home with instant communication and social networking. This digital generation is optimistic, realistic, globally aware, and inclusive by nature. They accept diversity and different types of families; they are civic-minded and prone to volunteerism. Like baby boomers, they truly value work/family balance and independence, but they are also curious, questioning and results-oriented (Gibson, Greenwood & Murphy, 2009).

This generation can greatly test the patience of the Baby Boomers and Generation Y. The passion for entrepreneurship, answer-seeking behaviors coupled with their sense of personal responsibility and need for feedback can be diminished by their dissatisfaction with entry-level jobs and their tendency to change jobs frequently. This group wants a say in how they do their work. They are collaborative and work well within the modern empowered workplace as long as there are enough challenges and opportunities to keep them interested (Gibson, Greenwood & Murphy, 2009).

The other generations tend to be intimidated by this generation. Millennials are very outspoken and will say what they think and mean. Being aware of their youthfulness, if they are not happy with their current situation at work, they will easily leave and get a new job. They are aware that they have a bit of time to get their act together. Even being aware of this, gen Y are very capable and ready to form a career.

Recommended Reading

Journal Articles

Psychologist Constance Patterson, Ph.D., provides information regarding her studies regarding the generational values of Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y along with how these generations can begin to work better together in the workplace:

Dittman, Melissa. (2005). Generational Differences at Work. The Monitor, 36 (6), 54.

Keith Mackey, an associate professor at AUT, conducted extensive research relating to the differences between the generations in the workplace. His research findings not only help to "debunk" common myths about the generations, but also help to pinpoint how to properly manage each group based upon the world events that have taken place throughout their lifetime:

Reid, Ellen. (2007). PEOPLE MANAGEMENT : Myth-busting Gen Y - Generational differences at work.Don't understand your younger colleagues? Think they have different work attitudes to you? Always blamed it on the Gen Y factor? Well those days may be over as a major study on workplace attitudes in New Zealand dispels the hype about the differences between generations X, Y and Baby Boomers. New Zealand Management. P. 63.

This article focuses on a topic which many researchers have stated is important for the success of intergenerational projects - mentoring. Not only is mentoring explained in great detail, along with the importance of implementing a mentoring program, but also a step-by-step plan of how to begin and continue to offer a mentoring program is provided:

Anonymous. (2010). Share Baby Boomer's Knowledge with Intergenerational

Mentoring. HR Focus, 87 (2), 7

Online Periodicals & Online Journal Articles

Within her article, author Dr. Lynne Curry, Ph.D. provides clear distinction between the values held by individuals that can be classified as a part of the Traditionalist, Baby Boomer, Generation X and Generation Y. Understanding the values of each group is the first step in understanding how to properly lead or manage these individuals:

Curry, Lynne (2003, November). Managing the Gen X/Y Employee. Alaska Business Monthly. Retrieved on February 12, 2010 from

Knowing how to interact with individuals from each generation represented within the ever-changing market place is a task within itself. Knowing how to do it well is something completely different. In his article, Ian Shapiro speaks about the methods and tactics that Anne Loehr, a generational guru, explains during her seminars around the country. Loehr not only explains the vast differences in the values of each generation, but also focuses a great deal on cultural markers. For example, the importance of the internet, blogs and other technological savvy ways of communication for Generations X and Y. This is truly an important piece of work that should be read by each person attending training sessions relating to communication between generations:

Shapiro, Ian. (2009, July). Speaking to Generation Nexus. Guru explains Gens X, Y, Boomer to One Another. Washington Post. Retrieved on February 12, 2010 from

Other Online Documents

With more than 25 years of leadership experience in the corporate environment, Anne Houlihan is able to provide a wealth of insight regarding the transitioning of the "leadership reigns" from the Baby Boomers to Generation X. Within the article, Houlihan provides concise points that help the readers to "better understand the leadership style, how to harness it and how it impacts everyone in the company:"

Houlihan, Anne. (N.D.) From Baby Boomers to Gen-X: An Evolution of Leadership Style. Retrieved on February 12, 2010 from

Throughout this captivating 45-slide presentation, Richard A. Lewis provides essential tools in better understanding the behaviors that are often exhibited by Generation X and Generation Y. His presentation tactics are very appealing, and could easily capture the attention of an audience during a training seminar. By introducing games such as Human Bingo one can truly understand what occurred during each generations lifetime, and in turn better understand why they are the way they are:

Lewis, Richard A. (2005). Organizational Behavior Meets Generation X and Y - A Practical Approach. Retrieved on February 12, 2010 from

A large portion of this report has been focused on what the Baby Boomers can teach Generation X and Y, and this article helps to remind us that there is still a great deal that Generation Y can teach the Baby Boomers. In this article, Jim Taggart references a few leadership authors and provides information on how to better engage Generation Y in the workforce as well as how to in turn teach older generations how to better interact and learn from this group younger of individuals.

Taggart, Jim. (2009) What Can Gen Y Teach Baby Boomers? Retrieved on February 12, 2010 from

Enhancing our training program

Adding a generational differences component to the company's training program would be a value added component to the organization. With three different generations being active in the workforce it would be ideal for employees to know and understand the cultural differences between them and their co-workers. "Market competition and demographic changes in the labor force are two of the forces challenging organizations to develop more effective leadership training, and implementation programs. Understanding more fully what traits or behaviors seem to be associated with how each baby boomers and Generation Xers perceives effective leadership will only be beneficial easing the transition as one group leaves and the other replaces it" (Ree,2003,Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies, pg 2, paragraph 2).

This program would be even more beneficial to the Baby Boomer generation because in most organizations they are the leaders of the Gen Xers and Yers. With Baby Boomer's having the most economic power with a population of 78 million versus Gen X with 50 million and Gen Y with 70 million, they need to know what is important to their followers and what their followers feel "can take a back seat." For example, the current state of the economy has really taken a toll on the motivation of Gen X and Gen Y. The Baby Boomers have experienced and survived hard economic times with things such as The Great Depression so they are able to manage and work through all the obstacles they are facing during our current economic downfall. "Both the MetLife study and the Business Week article make it clear that those managing younger employees need to find ways to help those employees handle the pressure the recession is causing in their personal and working life" (Mack, 2009, paragraph 5).

Each generation needs to know the strengths and weaknesses of each other to work effectively as a team. Baby Boomers are nearing the age of retirement and the Xers are taking on their roles as leaders. Baby Boomers need to groom the Xers into being great leaders, while the Xers need to be training the Yers to take their place in the workforce.

Each generation has their own unique style and characteristic which distinguishes them from one another, but collaboratively they can make a great team. With skills ranging from being able to lead and adapt in any situation to being tech savvy, all are valuable to the success of an organization. Leaders must understand that their younger workers are an important aspect of their team. Additionally, Baby Boomers must know that the later generations do not have the same work ethics as them, so they cannot be managed the same way. "Thirty-two percent Gen Xers believe the "younger generation" lacks a good work ethic and that this is a problem; and 13 percent of Gen Yers say the difference in the work ethics across the generations causes friction" (Gelsten, 2009, paragraph 6).

Baby Boomers need to know what interests the younger generations; such things as the music they listen to and what type of people they look up to. Generation X and Y want a professional and personal relationship with their leaders. Those leaders who connect with their followers on a personal level and get to know what makes them thrive and what de-motivates them will be able to get more out of their employees and in return have more productivity.


This paper has reviewed the differences between the generation's ideas, values, and the workforce environment. This paper gives ideas on how the baby boomer generation can effectively lead all the generations to work together effectively. The reviews of books and articles provide suggestions on leading all generations to work effectively while respecting each values and work ethics.

In order for this workforce of Baby Boomers to lead Generations X and Y the recommendations are as follows:

Baby Boomers must have a clear and concise understanding of Generation X and Y.

Baby Boomers need to respect and communicate with Generation X and Y.

All generations need to know the strengths and weaknesses of each other.

Have a management style that will adapt to all generations.

Baby Boomers need to be open to review articles and books to assist in leading Generation X and Y.

Include components in a training manual that will address Generation X and Y that will address their values.

Baby Boomers need to understand that all generations need to have choices.

Finally, a better understanding of all generations will lead to close relationships in the workforce and create better communication between all generations and less discontent for all involved. The steps listed above should be a useful guide for the Baby Boomers to lead Generation X and Y effectively. Generations X and Y will know they are on the same team and their ideas are contributing to a productive workforce.