Leaders, read this. Bosses, read it twice.

A quest to understand how youth culture is shaping the future of organizations.

I’ve spent the last 20 years transiting in and out of athletics, education, and the corporate world. In recent years I witnessed the clash of values between generations inside some of the largest companies in the world.

I have watched youth’s voice grow more powerful, and I’ve observed the friction felt by the current and rising leaders. I am at the intersection of two generations, and I’ve had a nomadic life for the last two decades, so I’ve learned to have a diverse perspective and simply learn to value the contribution of both sides.

I’ve observed in business that today’s leadership culture with its traditional values is taking a beating. I wondered if others experienced the same in their companies.

I discovered how leadership was being redefined by the rising leaders and the break-neck pace of digital culture. My partner and I interviewed and surveyed people from all walks of life, business, and various countries, trying to find out an answer to these burning questions:

PROFILING THE AUDIENCE

Our respondents were a diverse range of nationalities, equally split across genders, and had a diverse corporate backgrounds and levels. We conducted an online survey and received over 100 responses from business leaders worldwide and interviewed 26 executives from Fortune 500 companies in a total of 30 hours of interviews, both video and in-person.

Here is an executive summary of the participants:

LEARNINGS

The challenges in the current leadership culture:

“Leading is often confused with managing.”

Leadership takes a great deal of balancing between leading and doing. Leading takes more effort and experience, and it’s easier to do or micro-manage.

In this case, a team lacks empowerment and inspiration.

“People are “given” management roles and expected to lead and they are not prepared or equipped to do it. Instead they continue to pursue the next big thing for themselves and fail to find ways to [develop] the team.”

LEADERS OFTEN FOCUS ON PERSONAL PROGRESS INSTEAD OF GROWING THE TEAM.

Current leaders are perceived to pay more attention to their work, sacrificing the team. But, real breakthrough results are a byproduct of a team’s work rather than a leader’s. Today’s new leadership is more concerned with selling their work than exploring the potential of its team.

The younger generation grew up more multifaceted, and the many passions gave them away to live in tribes and move in packs. The team from work is just another type of crew they want to participate in and engage within a genuine way.

They respect it and thrive on it. And they want leaders to see the same value in it.

A CULTURE OF SAMENESS BREEDS MEDIOCRITY

Not all leaders give everyone on their team an equal and powerful voice. Leaders can also be biased in assembling a group where people are more alike than different.

This leads to a culture of sameness and a decrease in innovation or lack of creativity.

“We are surrounded by the same opinions and same skillsets in most organisations. No variety, no diversity of thought that leads to true creativity.”

Diversity is undoubtedly one of the critical values in today’s culture and its absence in high achieving teams is a huge miss for everyone across generations.

LEADERS CAN BECOME OBSESSED WITH CHANGE

When leaders first come in on a new team, there is a desire to change how things are done. And, what needs to be changed can be glaring. But, change can also chip at the team’s confidence.

Instead, true leaders need to first celebrate what’s great and instill confidence.

“A great leader needs to understand strengths before identifying weakness in a team, because there is something good in everything. And, that’s what builds trust and confidence.”

LEADERSHIP IS PASSION, NOT A FUNCTION OF A TITLE OR RANK

Leadership starts with assuming a role to inspire and empower others. People who start leading early do it because they are passionate and don’t need title or permission to conduct.

Leadership is grounded in belief, creating a sense of belonging greater than the job.

“Follow your passion because your passion will lead you, then you will lead others.”

We educate too many leaders to believe that they need to compete and “win” to be leaders and that they need to reach a specific position or have a certain title before they can lead.

The new face of leadership!

A CULTURE OF COLLABORATION IS IMPERATIVE

The ideas of collaboration and community seem to be at the heart of the new leadership vision. People believe that leaders who can’t instill a culture of collaboration and demonstrate it fail at the most basic function of leadership.

“[As a leader], I create a culture that teaches people how to lead through collaboration, establish a vision for what they want to create.”

This will create a forum for ideas from everyone in the team to contribute to the organization's overall vision. And, I continued to explore the research, we identified the following attributes as the most essential qualities for the rising leaders, respectively.

When asked to prioritize from a series of qualities that are often associated with leadership and other attributes that have not traditionally been associated with it, the highest-ranked attributes are positively surprising to us.

Qualities like passion, creativity, transparency, and clarity are more important than boldness, unapologetic, and fearlessness. These qualities were ranked among the least important ones.

Leadership is less about highlighting a leader’s alpha attributes and behaviors and more about leveraging these qualities to extract each team member's best performance.

This is about the sum of qualities that make people thrive in team environments, such as: being able to inspire others through your passion, being creative and empathetic, giving every individual an equal voice, being transparent, and ear others’ trust. It’s not a surprise to see passion as one of the most attributes in leaders.

We are used to being moved emotionally by people with passion. It’s what makes us connect with a person and persuades us to follow that person.

TRUE LEADERS ARE EMPOWERING

When leadership operates with a collaborative mindset and can empower others, leaders are less visible and more dispensable. Instead of needing a leader’s presence, the team believes in the core leadership values instilled by the leader.

The result is a more confident team and ultimately creating a high-performance organization, which decides on the leader's behalf and the consumer’s best interest.

“Leadership means empowering your team to know how to act when the leader is not present.”

The future of leadership.

UNLEASHING LEADERSHIP POTENTIAL

If we want to groom and grow the next generation of leaders, we need to inspire them to have the confidence to find their voice. Leadership is a quality that can be cultivated, and it’s been falsely perceived as something that some are born with.

Here is what some of our respondents told us:

“Leadership is nurture, not nature. If I were a leader now, I would want to give people the room to take risk and celebrate that whether it’s a win or a failure.”

CREATING A PLATFORM THAT REWARDS RISK-TAKING AND CELEBRATES AGILE LEARNING

Leadership is a test of grit and perseverance, and in the absence of it, no leadership qualities can form. There is a perception that the younger generation has been cuddled and enabled too much. The next generation is at a greater risk of becoming too entitled, too dependent, and not empowered to make decisions or fail.

In a leadership mindset that empowers, we can motivate future leaders to make more decisions. We enable our young people today, and we do too much for them.

“We need to cycle back to a place where we empower instead of enable.”

The biggest takeaway of this study was the shift towards a collaborative mindset and the expectation that leaders are social by design. Which makes them more capable of building a culture of community that inspires and empowers its members through a diversity of thought to live up to their full potential

In this shift, a leader is as strong as the pack they lead. The new leadership truly defines itself as a packed leadership: passionate, creative, transparent, and always acting as a unit.

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Football is Life | Web 3 | NFT | Metaverse | Executive Board Member | Adjunct Professor at Clemson University | Father of two gems.

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Fabio Tambosi

Fabio Tambosi

Football is Life | Web 3 | NFT | Metaverse | Executive Board Member | Adjunct Professor at Clemson University | Father of two gems.

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