One third of newly appointed S&P 500 CEOs last year were younger than 50. The number of younger workers, particularly Gen Z, taking on senior positions is rising.
But, are they ready to be ‘leaders’?
This question showcases the conventional view of corporate leadership = age + experience. But, to what extent does this perspective serve us?
On one hand, youthfulness poses challenges. Naturally, younger employees, with less years under their belt, may lack the experience to confidently navigate economic cycles, have less robust institutional knowledge, and more general ‘life skills’ needed for effective leadership.
On the other hand, when it comes to creating change, youthful naivety can be advantageous in providing the gift of creative, innovative thinking. Moreover, Gen Z’s innate digital dexterity could give them an edge in understanding and navigating the digital context. Furthermore, their openness around mental health and ‘knowing themselves’ may make them effective at building psychological safety.
But, perhaps in weighing up the pros and cons of youthfulness in leadership, we are missing the point.
Perhaps in asking ‘Are Gen Z ready to be ‘leaders?’ we are asking the wrong question. A post-conventional view on leadership is needed.
Contrary to the conventional view on leadership as a ‘role’ of ‘managing people’ that is suitable only for certain ages or job types, maybe there is no optimum age for leadership. Moreover, maybe leadership should not be defined by a job title.
Let me suggest a different perspective.
Leadership is contingent upon the individual and the unique circumstances at hand. Rather than a specific job role, leadership is a dynamic practice accessible to anyone when provided with the appropriate tools and skills.
In fact, leadership is just one of the three core skills we need EVERYONE in our organisation to master.
- Leadership: The skill of creating change, by inspiring others to follow.
- Management: The skill of keeping things reliable, by supporting others to use suitable processes and routines effectively.
- Followership: The skill of seeing someone else doing something great and following, supporting and enabling them.
What’s the secret to sustained success?
Developing a culture where all individuals, of all ages, move with agility between these skills according to the situation. When we see something that needs to change, we lead. When we see something that needs to be kept reliable, we manage. When we see someone doing something great, we support and influence them by following.
Gen Z shows immense appetite for leadership but rigid, hierarchical conventional views on leadership mean organisations risk losing out on the opportunity to unlock their potential.
Rhia Murray is the youngest faculty member of Holos and speaks from her Gen Z perspective. We are grateful for her vision and leadership in creating the Holos Leadership Foundation and the New Gen Leadership Programme.
For more information:
New Gen Leadership Programme: https://www.holosleadershipfoundation.com/leadership-programme