Globally Responsible Intergenerational Leadership

Globally Responsible Intergenerational Leadership

Ceren Aydogmus (Bilkent University, Turkey)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8003-4.ch007
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Today's workforce is more diverse than ever, comprised of five generational cohorts: Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Generation Y, and Generation Z. As each generation has its own values, beliefs, and expectations, their leadership preferences pose new challenges for organizations. In this chapter, leadership approaches are discussed, and the differences and similarities among preferred generational leadership styles are examined. The purpose of this chapter is to determine an appropriate leadership style that meets the needs of all generations, and globally responsible inter-generational leadership has been suggested as the most effective approach.
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For the first time in history, there exists five generations in the workplace: Traditionalists (1900-1946), Baby Boomers (1947-1964), Generation X (1965-1980), Generation Y (1981-1995) and Generation Z (1996-Present) (Oblinger & Oblinger, 2005). As the workplace becomes host to more generations, and with more diverse values and characteristics among these cohorts than previously, intergenerational relationships reveal new challenges for leaders and their employees. Each generation reflects a cohort with similar beliefs, attitudes and values, and the generation-specific characteristics are powerful determinants of employees’ reactions towards their supervisors (Howell & Shamir, 2005). Differences among the generations influence preferences for leader types (Mansor et al., 2017).

The previous literature points to the conclusion that different generations prefer different leadership styles (Arsenalut, 2004; Sessa et al., 2007; Yu & Miller, 2005). Leadership types differ in several respects, such as the degree of control exercised by employees, managerial influence on organizational transformation and effects on employees’ job behavior (Clark, Hartline & Jones, 2009).

The directive leadership style focuses on an authority–compliance relationship between the leader and the employee. In this style, the leader gives employees instructions for their tasks including expectations, how they should be performed, and a completion time line (Athanasaw, 2003). Charismatic leadership, on the other hand, engages employees, and can result in high commitment to the leader's mission and significant personal sacrifices in the interests of the company. While charismatic leader behaviors can have transformational effects on employees (Shamir, House & Arthur, 1993), transformational leadership goes a step further by developing employees to higher levels of ability and potential and motivating them to look beyond their own interests towards interests that will benefit the group (Bass & Avolio, 1994). Research studies in leadership style have established charismatic and transformational leadership styles as effective ways of leading (Bass & Avolio, 1994; Shamir, House & Arthur, 1993; Tichy & Devanna, 1986), as these methods guide from a humanistic perspective. Supportive leadership also encompasses individualized consideration, and such leaders give importance to meeting employees’ needs and creating a positive work environment (Rafferty & Griffin, 2004).

Recent ethical scandals such as the collapse of Enron and the Worldcom fraud have raised important questions about the role of leadership in shaping ethical conduct. Previous studies on the ethical dimension of leadership have been embedded mainly within the charismatic and transformational domains (Bass & Steidlmeier, 1999; Howell & Avolio, 1992; Price, 2003). However, ethical leadership represents a minor component of transformational leadership, which also involves stimulating, inspiring and visionary leader behaviors. Ethical leaders are characterized as principled and honest people who make fair and balanced decisions. They are expected to communicate well with their employees about ethics and set clear ethical standards (Brown & Trevino, 2006).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Responsible Leader: An accountable and dependable leader who works for the greater good by making sustainable business decisions that benefit an organization’s stakeholders.

Intergenerational Equity: A belief that Earth’s social, cultural and natural environments do not belong to any single generation but are to be managed and conserved in safety and trust for the wellbeing of future generations.

Globally Responsible Intergenerational Leader: A leader who works for the greater good by combining a micro level of personal interaction with a macro perspective of CSR, emphasizing intergenerational justice and intergenerational equity in the corporate world.

Effective Leader: A leader who does the things for the greater good; creates an ethical, trusting, and open organizational climate; gives importance to the wellbeing of the organization and its stakeholders; as well as to society and social and natural laws. Such a leader also engages with today’s generations and builds the next generation and thus shapes the future.

Intergenerational Fairness: A belief that diverse generations should be treated fairly by their organization. This sense of fairness should be shared across different genders and age groups.

Corporate Social Responsibility: An organization’s sense of economic, legal, ethical, and philanthropic responsibility towards the society and environment in which it operates.

Generation: People born within the same time period in a society, sharing similar behaviors, attitudes, likes, beliefs, values, and preferences.

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