If you have been in leadership for more than 12 years you have likely witnessed a leadership revolution whereby the people management of the x and y generation takes up a lot more of your time.This is because our idea of authority and hence our style of leadership has changed drastically over the last decade. Leaders used to lead primarily by a control and command, (for some a fear based) style of leadership, where your title gave you a certain authority in its own right and people did what you said just because you are the leader. Nobody questioned, second guessed or tried to negotiate with you. People just did what they were told whether they agreed with it or not. That simple.
Today, leaders are compelled to be an inspiration and brush up their soft skills in order to engage their workforce or just to get them to listen. Now, in order to effectively lead you have to negotiate with employees, make sure they feel heard, respected and appreciated. We need to worry about morale and create fun workplaces. All of this “soft stuff” takes up a lot of time. I have been observing how misused soft skills are doing more harm to morale and productivity than good. I believe a big part of this leadership expert shift has to do with a new younger generation of employees whose parents have raised them to be their equal.
Gone are the days where children are seen and not heard, this younger generation has been raised to expect a lot of appreciation and cheer for doing simple everyday things. The new style of parenting expects children to negotiate and in doing so creates a strong sense of entitlement. A simple example: when I was young if my mother told me to eat my peas, I did as I was told. I didn’t negotiate, barter or bargain my way out of it. Recently I was at a friend’s house when she asked her daughter to eat her peas, her daughter said no. My friend proceeded to offer her ice cream if she ate her peas, her daughter still refused the vegetable so she told her she could stay up past her bed time if she ate her peas (You know you have done this too). The sense of entitlement comes in when children become adults, get jobs and at work they feel entitled to negotiate perks just for doing a mediocre job.
Unfortunately, companies are falling for it. Over and over recognition programs recognize people for work they are supposed to do anyways. It’s the job. Soft skills are critical to being a good leader especially if you want to engage a younger workforce but the terms need to be set by you. Leaders need to establish a strong sense of authority, set concrete rules and expectations and clear consequences. Never recognize mediocrity. Never recognize people for work they are supposed to do anyways, this is not negotiable. Some examples are showing up for work on time and not taking more than the allotted number of sick days. If you are in the Service industry, being "nice to people is part of the job. Seniority pay is great, but you still have to do a good job. Clearly define performance to avoid entitlement. This is a very interesting discussion and we can peel back the layers in further blogs.