The Challenge of Generational Cohorts
It seems that leaders today are bombarded with all kinds of information and advice from both the academic and popular presses on how to lead members of the different generational cohorts working in our organizations today. Generational cohort theory has gained popularity over the last decade and research has identified characteristics of each generational cohort creating what are essentially “stereotype” profiles for each cohort. Much of the advice for leaders has been that they need to adjust their approach to meet the needs of each cohort. Many leaders are asking how to do this when members of each generation are often members of the same team and in the room at the same time.
Does Servant Leadership Work for All Humans?
This begs the question, is there a leadership style that is desirable and effective for members of all generational cohorts? A study was conducted to test the notion that the effectiveness of servant leaders varied among three of the main generations working in the US today (Baby Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y). Four hundred and fifty-two participants responded to the 30-item servant leadership survey as well as the abridged Job in General, the abridged Job Descriptive Index and the Affective Commitment Scale. After confirmatory factor analysis (structural equation modeling) was conducted to validate the van Dierendonck and Nuijten (2011) survey in the US, a MANOVA found no significant relationships between scores for servant leadership attributes and organizational outcomes based on generational cohort affiliation.
This study is the first to investigate generational cohort perceptions and organizational outcomes regarding servant leadership utilizing the newly designed and validated servant leadership survey by Dirk van Dierendonck and Inge Nuijten. Based on these results, there appears to be little need to use differentiated leadership approaches to accommodate specific generational cohort leadership preferences when applying servant leadership principles. This is good news for leaders everywhere!
Find out more at the Academy of Management Conference
My research partner Dr. Tatiana Zimmerer and I are preparing for our paper session at the Academy of Management Annual Conference in Philadelphia this Sunday afternoon. If you are attending the conference and interested in our research check out program session #617 and our paper “One Size Fits All: Servant Leadership an Effective Approach for All Generations.” | Download
- Zimmerer, T. E., & Latham, J. R. (2014). One size fits all: Servant leadership an effective approach for all generations. Paper presented at the 74th Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management, Philadelphia.
- van Dierendonck, D., & Nuijten, I. (2011). The servant leadership survey: Development and validation of a multidimensional measure. Journal of Business and Psychology, 26(3), 19. doi:10.1007/s10869-010-9194-1