The year is 2023, you wake up and prepare to go to work. On the way to your office, you stop at a very well-established coffee shop for a cup of coffee. You reach the counter, and a 19-year-old barista asks for your order; a 28-year-old makes your coffee; a 45-year-old manages the establishment; a 60-year-old owns the franchise; and an 80-year-old is the active founder who still keeps tabs on the business’ operations even past retirement. Much like a complex clockwork mechanism, each individual is recognized as an important asset that works with the others to form one very capable unit. Businesses such as this are handled effectively because their leaders understand the importance that everyone brings, carrying with them vastly different personal experiences, insights, and knowledge, which in turn creates a deeply diverse pool of knowledge from different generations—and managing all of them is a serious skill that requires much dedication and patience to properly effectuate. This ability is known as intergenerational leadership, a significant skill in today’s globalized society that often gets overlooked.

Basically, there are currently five generations working together in the workplace, each with their own set of principles, beliefs, work habits, and values. The ability to lead and develop a multigenerational team will be a crucial skill in our rapidly changing, globalized workplace. According to a 2023 Forbes article, these five generations active in the workforce are: The Silent Generation (generally 76 to 99 years old), Baby Boomers (generally 57 to 75 years old), Generation-X (generally 41 to 56 years old), Millennials (generally 26 to 40 years old), and Generation-Z (generally 25 years old and younger), which all bring different mindsets and expectations to the office. Furthermore, the article explains that the traditional relationship between age and career advancement has loosened as careers have grown more dynamic and complex. Leaders must continually reinvent themselves throughout their working lifetimes due to rapid organizational and technological change. Simultaneously, the general company culture has changed to make it acceptable—and occasionally even desirable—to elevate younger people into leadership roles. The article also reiterates that the idea that only senior employees can be managers is becoming obsolete, especially since nowadays it is normal that a 60-year-old intern is being supervised by a 27-year-old.

Intergenerational leadership is a difficult field, and navigating it demands careful thought and deliberate action. Here are some pointers to consider:

Establish a common vision

The key to effective intergenerational leadership is uniting the many generations around a unified vision and set of objectives. Leaders should articulate a compelling vision that resonates with employees of all ages and inspires them to work collaboratively towards a common purpose. Create an inclusive environment where individuals from all generations feel valued, respected, and empowered to contribute.

Focus on diversity and inclusion

Society has been evolving rapidly over the past decades, with diversity and inclusion at the forefront of what this generation perceives as the golden standard for working. Intergenerational leadership promotes diversity and inclusion by recognizing and valuing the contributions of individuals from different age groups. It acknowledges that each generation has unique strengths, experiences, and perspectives to offer. By embracing diversity across generations, organizations can create a more inclusive and dynamic work environment, where ideas from all generations are considered and respected. It is also important to avoid making assumptions or generalizations based on age and focus on individual talents and capabilities.

Encourage ongoing learning and growth

Intergenerational leadership enables the transfer of knowledge and expertise between generations. It is crucial to promote a culture of lifelong learning and professional development and provide opportunities for all generations to upgrade their skills, stay updated with emerging trends, and adapt to changing technologies. Offer training programs, mentorship opportunities, and resources that cater to the learning needs of different generations. Older generations have accumulated valuable experience and wisdom, while younger generations possess fresh perspectives and technological skills. By fostering collaboration and mentorship between generations, intergenerational leadership facilitates the transfer of knowledge, ensuring that valuable insights are not lost and that organizations can benefit from the collective wisdom of multiple generations.

Be a leader who radiates unconventional thinking

When interacting with people of different generations, be inclusive, open-minded, and respectful. Show that you are eager to learn, adjust, and respect diversity, and that you are willing to consider ideas that are non-traditional. Your actions will set the tone for the organization and encourage others to follow suit.

As indicated by a Harvard Business Review Article, one should "Promote managers who think creatively—and beyond age-based generalizations—to be inclusive of long-tenured employees." Making reskilling a strategic priority is necessary to have a resilient workforce. Proactive managers can reengage and extend the careers of valued employees by arranging for them to gain new skills or take sabbaticals.

Seek feedback and adapt

Lastly, great leaders openly communicate with the people they manage. Actively seek feedback from individuals across generations to understand their perspectives and experiences within the organization. Use this feedback to refine your leadership approaches and make necessary adjustments. Continuously learn and adapt your strategies to better navigate the complexities of intergenerational leadership.

In conclusion, it is crucial to develop an inclusive culture, value multigenerational talent, and foster understanding and respect across different generations in order to maintain successful generational coexistence. Keep in mind that establishing an inclusive and collaborative atmosphere needs patience, empathy, and a commitment to intergenerational leadership as a lifelong endeavour. By embracing the strengths of all generations and promoting mutual understanding, you can effectively navigate the complexities and leverage the full potential of intergenerational teams.


As published in The Manila Times, dated 12 July 2023