A Study on Leadership in Generation X

The era and environment of my parents was a lot different than the one I have known. But of course, the era and environment they knew was also a lot different than their parents before them. However, in every era and in most environments, a leader has risen. The latest journal on leadership introduces us to a study on generation “x”. This study, as presented by Rodriguez, Green, and Ree, examines leadership preferences. These preferences concern the state of labor as it is now, so that present and future leaders may implement appropriate strategies to the next generation.

The model of leadership that is used in the above mentioned study is based upon a pilot study of transformational leadership. From 1904 to 1970, many studies addressed what traits effective leaders showed. This span of six decades, which included two generations, produced many leaders that shared similar traits that made them effective. For example, the most common traits found during this span were: intelligence, self-confidence, determination, integrity, and sociability.
While this study addresses an appropriate model of leadership, it does not address other models of leadership found in other journals. For example, transactional leadership, behavioral leadership (although it could be considered a trait), situational leadership, and contingency leadership were not recognized in the study of generation “x”.

Transactional leadership is addressed in research found on the web pages of “leadingtoday.org”. The literature states that transactional leadership seeks to motivate followers by appealing to their own self-interest. Its principles are to motivate by the exchange process. For example, business owners exchange status and wages for the work effort of the employee. In the political environment, politicians may exchange favors or government jobs for votes. Transactional behavior focuses on the accomplishment of tasks and good worker relationships in exchange for desirable rewards. Transactional leadership may encourage the leader to adapt their style and behavior to meet the perceived expectations of the followers.

The study of generation “x” is based upon a view of transformational leadership. This view is based upon the notion that the leaders and followers will equally motivate, coordinate, and communicate at great lengths. However, the journal of leadership presented by the three authors represents a contradiction. For example, while generation “x” workers strive for building relationships, they also prefer to work alone and tend to perform better when they are not involved in groups. Additionally, the research addresses studies that have shown that generation “x” members do not stay in one job for a long period of time. Thus, it makes it very difficult to gage whether leadership models are actually effective when a company experiences drastic turnover.

Generation “x” prefers flexible, monetary beneficial, harmonious, and fulfilling work environments. While the goal of the new generation is to “have fun” I find the studies to offer very vague questions. The new generation is lazy. The new generation is out for the “quick-fix”. In fact, in Massachusetts, where I reside, exists the largest lottery in the United States. My parent’s generation used terms like “social security”. Generation “x” members are looking to get rich quick and will venture into uncharted territory to find it. Today’s leaders will continue to exhibit the same qualities that have made other generation’s leaders effective: intelligence, self-confidence, determination, integrity, and sociability. However, the presentation will need to be very flexible that is equally challenging, as it is fun.

Douglas Coupland in his book Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture, who took the X from Paul Fussell’s 1983 book Class, where the term class X designated a region of America’s social heirarchy rather than a generation. As Coupland explained in a 1995 interview, “In his final chapter, Fussell named an “X” category of people who wanted to hop off the merry-go-round of status, money, and social climbing that so often frames modern existence.” It was after the publication of Coupland’s book that the term began being used as a name for the generation by the media, who introduced Generation X as a group of flannel-wearing, alienated, over-educated, underachieving slackers with body piercing who drank Starbucks coffee and didn’t want to work.

“You can’t teach what you don’t know, and you can’t lead where you won’t go”
Jesse Jackson

Today’s education world is information and communication intensive, and leaders need to be empowered with the knowledge, skills, and abilities that technology offers. Even with the enormous potential and academic advantages that innovation and improvement of communications afford, without the direct participation and support of an institution’s leadership, this power cannot be pushed to its full potential. Leadership requires many of the characteristics common to all leaders, but also requires special abilities and insights into technology’s impact.

According to Retired General Colin Powell (1996), leadership in the new millennium will be essentially the same as that of Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, or other great leaders of yesterday-it will require that people have a vision of where they want to lead, how to choose the right people, and how to accomplish objectives that flow from visions. Powell goes on to state the one major difference affecting leaders of the 21st Century – the transformation occurring in our nation’s industrial, political, societal, and economic realms. Accordingly, this transformation is occurring due to the fast-paced and globally centered information and technology revolution. All leaders positioned within this new era must be able to use the powerful tools offered by this global revolution.

As technology has made things faster, so has it also made the generation faster. In fact, in today’s USA Today newspaper, it stated that for the first time in the nation’s history, credit and debit purchases outnumbered paper checks. Generation “x” while at times “out of control” may actually have more control over the leadership styles than they realize. Effective leaders will need to be more flexible and accomidating because the new generation is not worried about being fired or trying to find another job. In many cases, the leader needs the subordinates more than they need him/her.

The challenges that face today’s leaders are growing. Employees were more loyal and hard working in my parent’s generation. The introduction of technology has forced leaders to redefine what measures work?

While previous findings tended to be contradicitons, the results of the surveys indicated a lot of information that I find to be true and accurate. As a member of the generation “x”, I could relate with the findings that most people of my age group treasure monetary benefits over job security. Also, my generation prefers the computer to a live person. One of the interesting aspects of this research that was not addressed is to measure how these individuals were raised. This would require personal interviews and not just a survey. Most generation “x” members were raised on television. Eventually, it has been stipulated, people will no longer be required to leave their house to see a new movie. All they will have to do is have it sent directly into their televisions at a reasonable price.

Leaders of yesterday would find the new generation somewhat annoying and underachieving. Leaders of today must recognize that the generation “x” is the future and that generation “y” which are now being born, will have even further technological advances. There will always be leaders. However, the traits of effective leaders may change as technology catches and surpasses human power.

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