Generational Shifts in Leadership are Impacting Your Organization and Sales Process

Wendy Keneipp on July 09, 2018

As the population ages and generations shift in the work place, we need to be very cognizant of the different approaches to leadership that are defining our environments. As insurance agencies and advisory firms, it’s often an intimate setting where each person in the organization has a large impact on the entire team and understanding that impact is essential.

We each lead from our values, and as generational values shift, so do leadership styles. To see where this shift is taking us, we need to understand the values that are driving the new and developing leaders.

As we look at data, it’s important to consider that some values are defined from the generational perspective, while some will be influenced by the stage of life one is in.

According to The Conference Board study, Divergent View/Common Ground: The Leadership Perspectives of C-Suite Executives and Millennial Leaders, millennial leaders aren’t vastly different from current CEOs, but there are important caveats to understand, and some that may surprise you based on all the millennial-bashing articles we’ve read over the years. A few highlights:

  • Technology is important, but millennials still value in-person interactions.
  • Social values are important, but maybe not as much as we attribute to them.
  • Millennial leaders balance being fearless and risk averse.
  • For all the talk about work/life balance, millennials get that it’s on their own terms. More responsibility equates to more time commitment.
  • Millennial leaders are more loyal than we may give them credit for – as long as they’re growing in their companies.
  • They are looking for accountability based on achieving expected performance.
  • Millennial leaders are as complex as everyone else in that they don’t like hierarchy, but still want promotions.
  • And they continue that complexity by rejecting low-hierarchy structures or open design.

So, what does all this mean? What I take away from it is that they want to participate in the business and the decision-making. They want to see results. And they want to help shape the culture of the organization.

That doesn’t sound so bad, does it? Having employees who want to see your company grow and thrive and actively participate in the development of it? That sounds positively dreamy to me!

Not all industries are flush with millennial leaders, but whether it’s new leaders in your own agency or in client/prospect companies, the leadership styles and values pose critical differences to understand. How you approach them, how you conduct sales/buyer conversations with them, and how you manage their accounts, it’s all going to be influenced by the leadership styles you encounter.

If you work with clients, or would like to, in tech-related industries or management consulting firms, be aware that these industries are leading the way in hiring and promoting millennials through their ranks. These young leaders are “are rapidly becoming the majority,” according to the study.

So what do these leaders look like?

The study asked about leadership qualities necessary for future leaders to be successful. The responses show what’s valued in the CEO role and then how the new and emerging leaders compare. Take a look – it’s a fun match-the-values activity.

CEOs:

Millennial leaders:

Critical Thinking

Leadership impact

Stakeholder management

Interpersonal skills

Business/mgmt. skills

Global/cultural acumen

Leadership impact

Critical thinking

Interpersonal skills

Business/management skills

Global/cultural acumen

Technology savvy

Technology savvy

Data/analytical skills

Data/analytical skills

Stakeholder management

Workforce economics knowledge

Workforce economics knowledge

 

What does this mean for organizations?

How do we interpret this and what do we do with it?

Well, we need to start by recognizing that there are similar values among the current leaders and the new ones coming into power. But right behind that, we need to appreciate that those values are presenting in a different order, which may feel subtle, but it’s actually a critical difference that will have a much larger impact that creeps into relationships, be it internal or with clients/prospects.

So the question then becomes, how do we help change/modify the organization and at a pace people can tolerate? And how do we accommodate this shift in thinking among leaders and not have a jolting transition where one leader is ousted, ostracized, or called the fool for the management style that has grown the company? There is a lot of old school management in agencies and it could be easy to slip into that line of thinking. But I urge you to avoid it at all costs.

Recognize the differences for what they are: Generational shifts in values and ways of approaching similar situations. It’s as natural as the Earth turns.

Things change and shift – respect and honor the past and what has allowed you to be here today. And also move forward into the future of the organization with acceptance, training, shared goals and expectations. Set a vision for what you want to become and how you will achieve it and then communicate it to the team repeatedly and consistently.

As you work through the transition, appreciate that it’s going to mean changing internal operations, as well as changing marketing and sales techniques to connect with these new leaders in other organizations.

Don’t think that everyone is replacing all their leaders with millennials, but the shift is certainly underway. And for those who are shifting their leadership, they’re winning. According to the study, “aggressive-growth organizations have a significantly higher proportion of millennial leaders than do organizations with slower growth trajectories.”

Not that it’s a guarantee, but if you want to see change happen, and happen quickly, in your organization, you may want to think carefully about who your next new hire is going to be.

 

Photo by Dmitriy Shironosov

Insurance Agency Leadership | Q4i Growth Platform  

 

Topics: Agency Development, Leadership + Management