Leading Gen Y: An Interview with a Gen X Entrepreneur

How can Boomer managers and other leaders understand Gen Y better? I recently caught an interview with Greg Hartle, Leading Gen Y: the Secrets Every Leader Must Learn.

Greg Hartle is an interesting entrepreneur from www.tendollarsandalaptop.com and here are a few selected excerpts from his interview with Lisa Petrilli, on C-Level Strategies blog.

“To me, the biggest leadership challenge for Gen Y leaders is developing an economic structure that understands the difference between maximizing consumption and maximizing quality of life. And doing so in ways that don’t sacrifice the future for the present.

This is a monumental challenge for two reasons:

  1. America’s entire economic engine is built on growth of consumption. What younger generations must first realize, that previous generations overlooked, is growth does not equal prosperity. Only then can we begin to look at an alternative economic engine.
  2. America was built on sacrificing the present for the future. Previous to the Baby Boomer generation, American’s made incredibly painful sacrifices. Being an American brings responsibilities as well as opportunities. For decades now we’ve been far too focused on the latter and have shared little time focused on the former.

The biggest challenge when leading Gen Y is the biggest challenge when leading anyone, deeply understanding their worldview. What matters to them and why?

The simple method of the 5 Whys (asking the question “why?” five times in a row to get to the root) can go a long way in deeply understanding what someone values. Only when you understand what someone values, can you begin to lead them.

Further steps would include:

  • Gen X and Boomers coming to the table asking, “What can I learn from you, Gen Y?” Followed by, “What would you like to learn from me?”
  • Then use one of the most empowering phrases in the English language, “Let’s”. “Let’s figure this out together.”

Gen Y leaders do not feel nearly as entitled as previous generations label them. They care. They just want to go about life differently.

Given the connectedness of the world, they tend to move through the egocentric (“me”) – ethnocentric (“us”) – world centric (“all of us”) stages of consciousness faster than ever before. This is why their social graph is much larger and more diverse than previous generations. And why their social graph matters more to them.

Gen Y leaders also want previous generations to know that just because they reject your lifestyle doesn’t mean they reject the principles, values, or history from which it’s foundation begins. In the end, they value similar things. They just want to arrive at the results in a way that serves more people, better.

I think Gen Y leaders understand visionary leadership far better than Gen X or the Boomer generation. They’ve learned this two ways:

  • They’ve personally experienced the extreme highs and extreme lows that come from a short-sited view. The greatest change to behavior will occur based on what you personally experience. They grew up during the rise of the late 90s (one of the greatest eras of America’s prosperity), the sharp fall of the dot-com bust, and 9-11 (In the top 3 of most significant events on American soil).
  • These events have shaped them unconsciously. And now they’re consciously living as young adults through the mass over-consumption of the mid-2000s followed by the sudden collapse beginning in 2008. The kind of real world lessons that will come from these events will shape Gen Y leaders’ vision much more so than any schooling, training, or job.
  • Information: Gen Y has grown up with unprecedented access to information. This access has allowed them to shorten their learning curve, make quicker decisions on what’s important to them, find like-minded individuals in far-away places to collaborate with, and develop a deeper and wider vision for imagining a world they want to live in and be a part of creating.

Access to this level of information will be both empowering and powerful for Gen Y leaders.”

For more thoughts on this, read the entire interview on Ms. Petrilli’s C-level Strategies blog.

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