Leadership in the Next Generation

by Elaine on July 22, 2012

How can we understand what it means for young leaders to lead? Our interviewees, in a recent research project into the aspirations of young leaders in their 20’s, indicated to us a common view on ‘leadership’. One important factor contributing to their leadership perception is that leadership is contextual.

The larger environment has changed and the next generation of leaders live in an unprecedented context that is defined by social media, transparency and borderless communication. Their immediate working environment is signified by flattening organizations which provide immediate feedback loops. This is even true within traditional hierarchical organizations, as in the case for Anna, 24, who is working in public prosecution:

The dilemma is that my organization is large and hierarchically steered, but I’m in a very horizontal team. The only reason for respect is how I put forward my ideas and if they are seen as helpful and needed. My role is to mediate, seek solutions that are acceptable to all. I involve people, participate, and create understanding and transparency, which can lead to new steps, change.

We came to believe that the next generation of leaders considers leadership to be largely determined by the environment in which it is exercised; namely, within a globalized knowledge economy characterized not only by the movement of information, but also by the dissolution of well-known social, cultural, and personal boundaries.

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