The majority of Gen Z and Millennials are worried about the future – so much so they are reluctant to bring children into the world. Climate change and environmental destruction are key to their personal decision-making. But at work, those worries are delegated to the team that writes the Sustainability Policy.
Meanwhile, it’s business as usual in pursuit of the next quarter’s sales targets. For many young adults, there is a cognitive dissonance between their personal doubts about the future and the confident growth agenda of the corporations they work for.
We have to recognise that a lot of young people are cynical about their bosses, not loyal to their employers but deeply committed to the relationships they have with their peers. They do a good job because of their own integrity – but not because they believe in the Company’s Vision, Mission and Values.
The corporate response to this growing reality is traditional. We spot the high potential talent, we identify these future leaders and we invest heavily in them so they learn the tricks and techniques of motivation, employee engagement, coaching, performance management, charismatic communication and so on.
We hope that these younger, wannabe leaders will do a better job of getting the workforce to feel engaged and energised and willing to go the extra mile in pursuit of corporate goals.
But it’s the wrong solution to the wrong problem. We don’t need to get better at spotting the high potential talent. We don’t need to find better ways of grooming that talent so it can stage by stage follow the pathway to the corner office.
We need to stop worrying so much about leaders and recognise that leadership actually sits with the followers. It is the Many in the Middle who hold the key to solving these real-world problems.
The corporation is where these skills of active followership can be developed and practised. Then these same skills can be used for the benefit of the wider world.
About the host
Paul Clipson, an anthropologist by training, has had an international career in HR and Leadership Development.
He has been VP of HR for the USA division of WHSmith. He was the VP of Leadership for Canadian food giant Maple Leaf Foods and most recently he has been the VP of People for the international division of Camelot Lotteries.
His book “Wake Up We Humans” has just been published. It is a radical challenge to our typical understanding of leadership and it is a plea for a wider distribution of leadership responsibilities so that we are all empowered to take responsibility, both at work and in the wider world, for tackling the crises of our age.
With the help of satirical cartoonist Sam Hepburn, Paul weaves his anthropology and his corporate experience into a highly entertaining roadmap to help navigate the rocky future that awaits us humans.