Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Leader of the (not too distant) Future

One of the books on my summer reading list was The 2020 Workplace by Jeanne C. Meister & Karie Willyerd.   As many books have done before, it focuses on the changing demographics of the workplace.  What is different this time around is that the focus is not on differences of race or ethnicity,  rather it is on generational differences.  Much of the book is based on two global surveys: one conducted with working professionals; the other with employers.  One of key points highlighted in chapter 2 is that the 2020 workplace will host five generations workers at the same time. Millenials (those born between 1977 and 1997) will comprise the bulk of the workforce (47%).  They will be sharing the workplace mainly with Baby Boomers (1946-1964) and members of Generation X (1965-1976), along with a handful of Traditionalists (born prior to 1946) and Generation 2020 (born after 1997).

My daughter is working as an intern at my company this summer.  In two years she will graduate college and join me in the full-time work force.   Two years later my son will graduate and join us as well.  The two of them have very different thoughts and expectations about work and learning than I do.  As I watch how they interact with their friends, I try to imagine what it will be like when their generation becomes the dominant presence in work place.  The implications for how we will need to prepare for generational differences in approaches to learning, communication, and working together in general are profound.  This got me thinking, "how managing is going to need to change?"

In chapter 7 of the book, titled Accelerated Leadership, Meister & Willyerd provide some answers. They present an integrated model of leadership and management that describes the kind of leader that will be needed and some of the behaviors that will be required in the course of managing.  The five leadership areas they identify are as follows:
  1. Collaborative Mind-set - leaders will need to be comfortable engaging in inclusive decision-making, networked leadership and soliciting feedback.
  2. Developer of People - leaders will need to mentor and coach their teams, provide honest feedback, career guidance and learning opportunities.
  3. Digitally Confident - leaders will need to be able to use technology to connect to employees - and customers.
  4. Global Citizen - leaders will need to have a diverse mind-set, be able to work well cross-culturally, and exhibit social responsibility.
  5. Anticipates and Builds for the Future - leaders will need to champion innovation and build accountability across levels to bring about the desired future state.
With many Boomers exiting the work force over the next decade, and the relatively small number of Generation Xers that there are in the first place, many of the 2020 leadership positions will need to be filled by Millenials.  So not only will we have to figure out how to lead this generation, but we will have to figure out how to be led by them.


  1. Hi Mike,

    Thanks for your review of The 2020 Workplace. Check out my blog at and more on the book,
    Jeanne C Meister

  2. Jeanne,

    Thanks for leaving your comment. I enjoyed the book very much. I re-read sections of it frequently, especially now that my daughter is interning at my company!