New Age Leadership

By : Dr Gilbert Ng


In the 21st Century businesses are fast growing and dynamic. There is technology which keeps on changing every now and then, government regulations, competition and workforce demography. Modern Leaders need to put all this in mind to remain afloat. Leaders are supposed to anticipate what is going to happen in the near future, understand the market trends, have expertise to take risks, be able to make decision in the shortest time possible and encourage team work.

Leaders who are old fashioned, conservative, lack innovation and shun technological advancement find it hard to thrive in business nowadays.

There is different leadership styles that leaders need to apply to different age group at place of work. In the 60s generation autocratic leadership style mostly used, nowadays the most commonly used is democratic and free reign.

Managing employees of different age group can be very taunting tasks for managers. Leaders are supposed to know how to handle age groups. Employees in different age groups have different in behaviors, communication styles among others. At work place there are various age groups that employees fall under. There is the those that were born pre-colonial times 1945, baby boomers 1946 – 1964, Generation X born 1965 – 1980, Generation Y 1981 – 1995 and the linkster (facebook) generation born after 1995.


They fall into the baby boomers group. These are the employees who were born after the world war. They have grown up in different cultural, political and economic backgrounds in comparison with todays’ generation. When they were young, they experienced an environment when their countries were developing rapidly due to the aftermath of the war. These people maybe disinterested, disconnected and rude at times, but they are well educated and excellent in team work skills. I would say these individuals are very hardworking professionals; they love their work and are committed in fulfilling their obligations in the organization. Most of them are holding high positions and they like and respect bureaucracy, besides being loyal and value organization culture. Therefore, they are communicating in hierarchy of which they have a strong belief that every task has to be handled formally. There are times when they seem to be autocratic, rigid and of high ego and are not very responsive to change easily.

However, they are confident and strive to be persevering in handling their duties and rarely go job hopping; and usually, they are the recipients for company’s long service awards.

While working with them, one must understand that they are perfectionist who strictly believes in meeting deadlines and formality. That’s why they get very uncomfortable and even upset when they see the younger generation being disorganized and impatient in their approach.

Even when they are attaining retirement age, most organizations perceive them as the pillar in their management structure and some are even engaged as consultants after their retirement.

However the unpleasant truth about this generation is, they are near retirement age. Their enthusiasm and passion may not be as high when faced with new technology advancement and rapid changes of the external and internal environment.

To deal with this age group effectively, it is advisable to respect them of which is the key to motivate them and give them the lead to act as coach or mentor to the younger generation. Even though their way of doing things could be obsolete, never criticize them in front of others, rather, have a closed door discussion and acknowledge their contribution before starting to get them to buy in new ideas of doing things. Protecting their ego is an utmost sensitivity issue that must be looked at in leading them. Employers should continue to empower them with more responsibilities, provide relevant training and development program to help them in embracing the rapid changing working environment so as to keep them ready. At the same time, the employer has to be patient as they could be slow in responding to new technology and getting savvy with the PC to get things done.

In Asia leadership context, senior management team of the 60’s always embrace with a word of recognition and respect to them for their experiences in their trade. That is the best ice breaking remedy to connect with them successfully.


This is a Generation X group. They are independent, family focused and do not impress bureaucracy. They are self-driven, hardworking and love social responsibility. They are entrepreneurs and love diversity. Unlike the boomers they do not like organization structure as they deal with task execution and direct communication. They do not appreciate hierarchy.

Some authors argue that as much as this generation is important to an organization they are hard to keep and to motivate. They get frustrated easily and if they are not left to work independently they can quit easily (Smith, 2013).

From the encounter with the generation of the 70’s in Asia, they are quite confused with the best way of leading people. The reason is simply they were led by 60’s which is obvious in autocratic style and they are dealing with their own 70’s generation expectation, the demanding 80’s and 90’s. Indeed it is obvious that they are going through a series of challenging transformation with the demographic changing work force.

To be effective in dealing with these employees, they need to be given space to work and make decision. Empowerment should also be used as a tool of motivation. If given space they can climb the ladder fast.

They also need to develop the modern leadership style from John Maxwell’s philosophy of leader is to serve and not to be served.

Last but not least, they have to master the coaching skills when they lead the 80’s and 90’s generation.

This generation still has a long period of working life span and they are still energetics and passionate with what they are doing now and we must not neglect their inner feeling of motivation.


This group is also known as the millennial. They are influenced by technology and are highly socialized. They are impatient and want to get results instantly. To achieve this they multitask and are innovative and creative. They come up with new ideas. They are ambitious and want success. They want to grow within a very short time. They are hard to manage and like changing jobs. They cannot want to stay at one place for long and don’t care about job securing.

They are technology savvy, they communicate through email, text, voicemail and value lifestyles.

From the observation on people in this generation is that they are not very confident in face to face discussion and always prefer to use the technology to communicate. They have big dream but lack of motivation to take massive actions.

Hence, leaders need to give them space, encourage them to be innovative especially in the technological world. They also need to be given room to balance work and life. Any conflict arising from work should be solved amicably and fast before they think otherwise.

They are also hungry for new knowledge and leaders must provide them with lot of opportunity to learn through training and coaching. They want more autonomy in their working environment, and leaders need to give them this freedom to carry out their tasks to prove their worthiness and capabilities.


Employees in this age group can be classified under linkster (facebook) generation. They are dependent on technology; they cannot carry out a simple task without using technological gadgets. They are closely connected to the social media and their parents. They spend most of their time on social media. They are keen on fashion, lifestyle change and are social activists. They are courageous and daring. They will come to work with ipods, ipads, and have tattoos all over their bodies (Dorsey, 2010).

They need detailed instructions on carrying out tasks and close supervision or else they might not work effectively. They like social responsibility.

When well-managed, this age group can be of great value to an organization. They are innovative and can come up with ideas that can move an organization to greater heights given the opportunity.

However, this generation in Asia is considered as the “pampered” group because most families are not having many children, especially in China with one child policy.

Thus, they tend to be more vulnerable and sensitive with their superiors’ remarks and appraisal towards their job performance.

Leaders need to motivate employees in this age group by giving them more social responsibilities. They should understand their lifestyle, get closer to them and give them responsibilities according to their passion. This group has a myriad of ideas related to technology, requesting them to air out such ideas can be of great benefits to an organization. They should be mentored by the older generation, be accepted and given opportunities with close supervision. They also need training in their fields to acquire more knowledge and hands on skills.


The older employees that are in the age groups of 60s have vast knowledge and experience that can be of help to the younger generation, the 80s and 90s. The older age group should be appointed to be mentors to the younger ones showing them how different tasks can be carried out and how to achieve the goals. While at the same time, older age group has to listen to younger generation views and ideas respectfully. Once the trusting relationship is built, the generation gap issue may be eliminated easily and working together as a team is definitely possible.

Those born in the 70s have ability to mediate between the age groups. This group should work closely with the other age groups to make sure that there is no conflict between them.

They can observe and find areas where the age groups have common interest. For example those born in 80s value job security and those born in 60s resist change but both desire training and development. The two age groups can be grouped in areas that the fit together.

Organization is advised to ensure promotion and training of all age groups for a harmonious environment. There should be no bias in promotion or any form of motivation based on age group (Ohlott, 1994).

Those born in the 70s and 80s like working under flexible time and work life balance. They need to be allowed to do so when they are able to perform their duties effectively and efficiently with high productivity.

The youngest group among this four generation is the 90’s who needs to be nurture, care and listen to them. Another concern is how to guide and show them the right direction of their career development is utmost important in leading them.


Looking at this four generations working together in any organization seem to pose a very challenging environment. In most of my services to organizations in Asia, the common issues are revolving at team work dilemma; older generation is not very cooperative with younger group and the staff turnover is mostly from generation of the 90’s.

My proposal for clients to tackle with this issue always starts with developing all managers with the new leadership principles, and develops their coaching skills so that organization can have more staff engagement activities. This staff engagement platform allows four generations to consistently communicate to understand one another mind set, common goals and working patterns.

Managers can coach effectively are the one who are good listeners, skillful in identifying his people strengths and unlock their potentials to maximize their performance. While coaching skill is easier to learn than to practice effectively, as such all managers in this new leadership era must acquire as quickly as possible to embrace this rapid changing environment.

Thus, managers should create conducive environment for all employees irrespective of their age and also create flexible working hours. They should put in mind generational differences when dealing with work ethics and apply different management styles appropriately (Watkins, 1999). The authoritative leadership management style is outdated and is out of place in this world today.

As what quoted by John C Maxwell, that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care in his book, Developing the Leader Within You is very well said and practical for all leaders now.


Deal, J., Karen, P., & Heidi, G. (2001) Emerging Leaders: An Annotated Bibliography, North Carolina, Centre for Creative Leadership.

Dorsey, J. (2010), Y-Size Your Business: How Gen Y Employees Can Save You Money and Grow Your Business, New Jersey, John Wiley & Sons. Inc.

Holtz .G.T. (1995). Welcome to the Jungle. The Why behind Generation X. New York, St. Martin’s Press

Owram, D. (1996). Born at the Right Time: A History of the Baby Boom Generation, Toronto Buffalo London, University of Toronto press.

Ohlott, P. J. & Eastman, L. J. (1994) Age difference in developmental job experiences, Dallas TX,

Smith, A. (2013). The Gen X and Millennial Guide to a Thriving Career, USA, iUniverse LLC

John C Maxwell (2005) Developing the Leader Within You, USA Thomas Nelson

Watkins. C. (1999). Grads to Grannis, Managing the generational gap. Food Management 34(9) 31-25

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