A new generation is emerging, ready to take on leadership roles and steer the course of organisations towards the future. Members of Gen Z are the trailblazers who have grown up in a digital age that has shaped their perspectives, values and aspirations. With their unique upbringing and diverse outlook, is Gen Z prepared for leadership roles?
Vivek Mukherjee, CHRO, Benetton Group, sheds light on the readiness of Gen Z for leadership positions. He emphasises how their being reared in a rapidly- evolving digital era has transformed their approach to work and leadership.
“Gen Z is unlike any other generation we’ve seen before. Its members are digital natives, with easy access to vast information at their fingertips. This has made them incredibly tech savvy and independent when it comes to learning new things and improving. They have a thirst for knowledge and a hunger to explore multiple interests simultaneously,” observes Mukherjee.
The entrepreneurial spirit exhibited by Gen Zers is evident in their eagerness to explore side hustles and freelancing opportunities. Even with limited experience, they fearlessly take risks and experiment with different avenues. This fluidity and willingness to step out of their comfort zone sets them apart from previous generations.
Adaptability and resilience
In today’s rapidly changing business landscape, adaptability and resilience have become crucial qualities for effective leadership. Being able to adjust to new challenges and bounce back from setbacks is essential for leaders to navigate uncertainties.
Preeti Jain, VP-HR, Airtel, emphasises the importance of adjustability and resilience in a leader. “When selecting Gen Z leaders, it is vital to prioritise soft skills over hard skills and ensure their leadership style aligns with the organisation’s values.”
“Gen Z is unlike any other generation we’ve seen before. Its members are digital natives, with easy access to vast information at their fingertips. This has made them incredibly tech savvy and independent when it comes to learning new things and improving. They have a thirst for knowledge and a hunger to explore multiple interests simultaneously”
Vivek Mukherjee, CHRO, Benetton Group
Gen Z has a broader and more inclusive outlook on diversity and inclusion. They effortlessly embrace communities with different genders, backgrounds and beliefs, challenging conventional taboos. This diversity-oriented spirit fosters a collaborative and harmonious work environment, making Gen Zers effective team players.
But does Gen Z’s prowess extend beyond being effective team players? Can Gen Zers lead, inspire and guide their teams toward success? Mukul Harish Chopra, CHRO, ConveGenius, offers his valuable insights on this.
“While members of Gen Z have tremendous potential for leadership, they need guidance in transitioning from their professional expertise to managing human resources effectively. Being a leader is not just about carrying a designation; it’s a two-way process. Leaders must not only impose authority but also gain acceptance from their team members,” explains Chopra.
He highlights that Gen Z leaders may need to focus on developing their human-relationship skills. Nurturing a sense of belongingness and trust within the team is crucial to ensuring cohesion and reducing the risk of the great resignation — a concerning trend of employees leaving organisations due to dissatisfaction.
“To lead people effectively, Gen Z leaders should avoid criticising and berating their subordinates in public,” Chopra advises. He suggests having “one-on-one conversations to maintain team members’ self-esteem and foster a healthy work environment.” This attitude of keeping the team first differentiates a leader from other peers.
Chopra also raises concerns about organisations overlooking leadership qualities, while promoting employees based solely on their skills and expertise. He emphasises that leadership is tested in adverse conditions when leaders must extract more from less, making astute decisions and inspiring their teams.
“We must not underestimate the value of leadership qualities,” Chopra stresses, going on to say, “Organisations should assess leadership potential more thoroughly to identify individuals who can navigate challenges and bring out the best in their teams.”
So, are organisations ready to embrace Gen Z leaders and empower them to lead the way?
Mukherjee believes that organisations must be proactive in recognising and harnessing Gen Z’s potential.
“When selecting Gen Z leaders, it is vital to prioritise soft skills over hard skills and ensure their leadership style aligns with the organisation’s values”
Preeti Jain, VP-HR, Airtel
They must provide opportunities for Gen Z to prove themselves. On the other hand, aspiring Gen Z leaders must shoulder extra responsibility and demonstrate maturity in their roles.
While Mukherjee acknowledges that transitional challenges may arise initially, he also assures that once these enthusiastic leaders’ contributions become evident and beneficial to the organisation, confidence in their approach will grow. In time, this mindset can become institutionalised, shaping a new era of leadership.
“Organisations need to take a leap of faith and provide opportunities for Gen Z leaders to shine,” advises Mukherjee. “By doing so, they can tap into the immense potential of this dynamic generation and create winning teams that benefit everyone involved.”
Gen Z leaders vs older generations
Compared to previous generation leaders, Gen Z leaders show a distinct difference by actively asking questions and fearlessly expressing their opinions. This is in contrast to the earlier generation, which tended to conform to their superiors’ directives.
Jain finds this change refreshing and welcomes their logical approach and readiness to face challenges head on. She observes, “Gen Z leaders come with enthusiasm, deliver their best and are eager to accomplish tasks.” Moreover, they are not afraid to leave an organisation once they feel they have made sufficient contributions. In contrast, previous generation leaders often stayed on in monotonous jobs for extended periods without questioning.
Putting organisation’s interest first
Putting the organisation’s interests first is crucial for a good leader. When leaders prioritise the organisation’s well-being over personal gains, it builds trust and loyalty among team members.
“A good leader can be identified by their ability to resolve conflicts, prioritise the team and communicate effectively. If they prioritise the organisation’s interests, they will lead the team to success,” Jain enunciates.
Forgive and forget mindset
Gen Z exhibits an impressive ability to forgive and forget. Conflict resolution is handled with maturity, fostering a cooperative and creative work culture. This stands in contrast to some older generations that may hold grudges or carry the burden of past conflicts.
Increments & promotions aren’t enough
According to Chopra, simply giving increments and promotions doesn’t ensure good leadership. Organisations must actively cultivate leadership attributes in potential employees for the future. As the saying goes, ‘People don’t leave their organisations; they leave their managers.’
“Being a leader is not just about carrying a designation; it’s a two-way process. Leaders must not only impose authority but also gain acceptance from their team members”
Mukul Harish Chopra, CHRO, ConveGenius
“Gen Zers aspiring for leadership roles need to take note of the significance of effective people management. It’s crucial for them to focus on nurturing a positive work environment and prioritising employee satisfaction, which will ultimately lead to their success as future leaders.”
How organisations can prepare these leaders of tomorrow
To prepare the leaders of tomorrow, Jain suggests that organisations take several key steps. First, they should identify potential young employees who display leadership attributes and enrol them in various programmes. These initiatives can involve collaborations with top institutes or mentorship from senior leaders within the organisation. Second, they should implement a formal leadership training programme, which can help these employees understand the expectations and requirements for leadership roles. Through such efforts, these emerging leaders can be adequately seasoned and readied to lead the organisation in due time.
Gen Z is well-prepared for leadership roles, but they may benefit from guidance in transitioning from their work expertise to effective people management. Organisations must recognise and tap into their immense potential, by providing ample opportunities for these dynamic leaders to shine.