It follows my 7-minutes contribution at the Women in Leadership (Online-Conference) "Windows of Opportunities", given on 27 May 2021.
190 women from 36 countries joined the whole conference. I was invited to participate on the Panel "Authentic leadership" together with moderator Romkje Fountain (NL) and other dear panelists Ksenija Sabo (SRB) and Gail Stathis (GR).
Pictures in front of the screen and behind the scenes :-)
Since 1st Grade in Primary School (aged 6), I have been the tallest of all pupils.
In physical education that meant I, the tallest, had to be first in the line-up.
I had to start running through the gym and the whole tail (23 pupils) followed behind me…
I was made a leader, even when I hated it. And I was even one of the youngest!
But I had to obey my teacher, as she was “the authority”, right?
I am a typical Millennial (born in 1983). I grew up in the West, but in the age of Chernobyl, Iron Curtain, Terrorism (9/11). Our parents raised us to take part in decision-making. Fun and pleasure are important for us Millennials. Materialistically seen we had all we needed, never starved, never really suffered, or feared any threat like war. And we want to see change!
At the same time, I started understanding, that logically most of my bosses were at least 15-25 years older than me, that means they come from a different generation, namely Generation Boomers (1940-60) or Generation X (1960-80).
GenX is also known as “sceptical generation” because they grew up without having “true examples” during the oil crisis of the 70ies, Communism and the “Cold War”.
Differences and Changes
This means that my bosses’ approach to work and how he faces issues, and simply accomplishes tasks, is often not the way I would tackle it.
Therefore, it is obvious that frustration (on both sides) or a lack of motivation, misunderstanding and miscommunication can be a result in the process of working together.
However, even if you work in a team where all are about your age, dispute and quarrel can be present and a daily companion. Generally speaking whether you work in a “secular” or “sacred” workplace, personal, historical, societal, religious, and cultural etc. backgrounds are not always visible at first glance, but they always play a role.
Yes, life is complex: one also must consider that people are in different phases in their lives.
Solutions to overcoming differences?
How to cope with so many different approaches?
How to deal with it?
Am I even “allowed” to give fresh impulses as a woman and younger person?
Sweating in the gym as shy 6-year-old girl, this bible verse came to mind:
“The greatest among you will be your servant.” (Matthew 23:11)
In German “the greatest” (“der Größte”) has a double meaning: the greatest and the tallest. So, back then, I drew the conclusion, being the tallest of the group means I just AM God´s servant. Looking at Jesus encouraged me to follow my teacher´s orders.
While growing older and yes, also “taller/greater”, I realized that Jesus did not want to use my altitude for leadership, but my attitude.
Three attitudes for “authentic” intergenerational leadership:
1) Be humble and honour your counterpart
Often it is easier to criticize others “for their way of doing” whatever they are doing, and we call it “the wrong way”. That implies that we are doing it “the right way”.
What about honouring our counterpart's background and experiences, and learning within the process?
As young person and woman I too often took things personally, and it discouraged me.
However, I want to honour and acknowledge the women and men alike who do encourage and invest in me: they are like solid soil and constant nurturing for me (small seeds) in order to grow big(ger). Attitude, not Altitude!
2) Be patient and get to know the other person better
One example of the “large field of communication”:
I prefer writing emails/messages. But sometimes I must wait very long to get an answer back, even for a very easy question.
Millennial´s are not only impatient, we are known for wanting “instant satisfaction”.
We are kind of “digital natives”. Therefore, it is clear that one expects an answer in the next minutes, isn´t it so?
I am not that kind of person whose smartphone is an extension of the arm (which might be true for my successive generation, called iGen).
But thinking of my boss (Generation X) I learnt over years that he prefers telephone calls when a quick decision needs to be made. Once I found that out, I knew how to move forward (and challenge myself, as I dislike telephoning).
Am I patient enough to see the other person’s world? Attitude, not Altitude!
3) Embrace who you are and serve
To find out what your motivation is, you can use different tools like the MCORE Assessment or Enneagram. Ideally, your whole team could run through such a process together. That illustrates that every part of the body is equally important.
I got to know my three main motivations (out of 27 themes, MCORE Assessment):
- Make it Work
- Experience the Ideal
As “servant” (MCORE Assessment says) “I am motivated to identify and fulfil needs, requirements, and expectations. I am quick to act, for instance, when people need advice, information, or emotional support.” The other side of the coin is that “I am suffering from the 'martyr syndrome' and not being able to say 'no'”.
Once you and your team know their motivations, you can avoid “negative attitudes”. Such a test can indicate who works better together with whom and synergies can be used instead of burnt. That´s a win/win situation!
Don’t forget it is about attitude, not altitude!
“Don’t let anyone look down on you
because you are young,
but set an example for the believers
in faith and
(1. Tim 4, 12)