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Multigenerational Leadership

I recall a talk by Libby Spears of Bravo CC titled "Talking 'Bout My Generation" that opened my eyes to the reality and perception of many leaders about generational gaps in healthcare leadership. It was at a forum of leaders in healthcare, most of who self-identified to be Baby-Boomers. I'm not one to assume percentages, but from the 700 or so leaders in the room, it'll be safe to think that 100 of them were from my generation, the Millennials.

Let me say here, that the word Millennials has come to mean many things to me in my little leadership career. It's been a source of pride, but also a short-coming in how other leaders perceive me in the organization. Back to that talk by the most revered Libby. Following her was another leader who said, and I paraphrase "we all have to deal with millennials," you could hear a pin drop, not because it was an attentive audience, but because it was a fubar that no leader should make. Ageism in healthcare leadership is real, not just to millennials, but to other generations as well.

A write-up by Karen Wagner in the November/December 2017 edition of the Healthcare Executive publication by the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) titled "Harnessing the Strengths of a Multigenerational Workforce to Leverage Opportunities" identifies the possibility of a workforce having as many as 5 generations of leaders from traditional (born before 1945) to Generation Z (born in the mid to late 1990's). Howard University Hospital's James A Diegel, FACHE said in this publication that the workforce is quickly becoming a Generation X (1965-1980) and Generation Y (aka Millennials 1980-1990's) workforce, however, the leaders remain baby boomers. Undoubtedly, it'll take a lot for a leader to manage such varying emotions, ideas, values and principles from different generations. Here lies the need to have multigenerational leaders. Having such diversity at the leadership level achieves many things.

The good of having a multigenerational leadership team is merely the same as having a diverse cultural leadership team. Diversity brings innovation, grows the talent pool, ensures that knowledge shared through generations remains sustained, and provides roadmaps for career growth and development for future leaders of tomorrow.

Just as any other opportunity, the first step to addressing and turning such gaps into strengths is to self-identify it. A workforce that believes all is well with leaders exclusively from one generation is far from filling such holes into positive forces and competitive advantages; acceptance is critical. The next step is to assess the effects and depths of the gap, know your numbers as an organization. What percentage of your workforce and leaders are from generation X, Y, Z? In identifying this, leaders can then consider where to fill in the gap. Lastly, a multigenerational strategic development group or the role of a diversity leader who helps keep the organization in check should be explored. This group/committee within the organization or leadership role will help develop inclusion strategies at all levels. The buy-in from the executive team is most vital, as any such endeavor requires de facto leadership and authoritative leadership oversight and support.

The discussions on having a multigenerational leadership team are one revisited every so often, as new generations join the workforce. It is not the flavor of the month or year. Addressing such gaps could be the key to hiring, retaining and developing future healthcare leaders of tomorrow.

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