The Changing Look of Leadership

By Terry Mohler, Sales & Marketing Manager

Many employers are still reeling from the impact of the ongoing economic trend referred to as “The Great Resignation,” where droves of employees were voluntarily resigning from their positions due to various reasons of job dissatisfaction. This trend has forced many employers to reevaluate what’s important to their workforce, the benefits offered, and the leadership needed to not only recruit but retain quality employees.

I believe the word leadership encompasses a much larger meaning today than it has in the past. The type of leadership wanted from my generation (Generation X) and the Baby Boomer generation was simple – “see job and do job”. However, it seems Millennials and Generation Z are looking for something different and asking “why” more than ever before.

To some old dogs, like me, that can be a hard perspective to understand, but one that needs to be reached if we want to guide our younger team members. When I was younger, the terms “lazy” and “slackers” were used to refer to unmotivated employees. As I work with younger generations, I recognize the need to identify what motivates them and the importance of reaching them at their level so that they are engaged in their work and their team.

How do we do that? I think it starts by trying to better understand them and accept them for who they are. I was at a leadership seminar a few years back (before the pandemic) where the speaker made a statement that I have said to myself and others repeatedly because it really impacted me. The comment was simple, but so true. They said (and I’m paraphrasing), “Your generation lives to work. You go to your job and build a career to advance yourself and provide for your family and future. Their generation works to live. They find a job, work for 6 months, and then take off 2 months. When they need more money, they find a new job.” I must say that hearing this statement was a “wow” moment for me. And, with the current job market where so many employers are in desperate need of employees, it’s even easier for people to just take their application down the road.

I still think that as the younger generation’s priorities change — marriage, kids, etc., their decisions regarding switching jobs may change too as they look for positions with stability and security. It’s important for us as leaders and managers to understand where our employees are today so we can guide them to be the best people/team members they can be, creating an environment where it’s hard to leave their team – not just their job.

For me, effective leadership in today’s workforce must come in the form of personal relationships. Get to know your team, and understand what motivates each member. Find out what is important to them in the workplace. Treat every person as an individual whose opinions and needs are being heard and considered.

While I am far from perfect, I try to be the leader my Meridian Products team members want and need – someone they can trust and want to follow. I will leave you with this last thought —  a quote from President Theodore Roosevelt. “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”