The iGens, or Gen Z, are eager to work, want to make an impact and are ready to commit the time. This generation is more reliable and steady pertaining to work and have no problem starting at the bottom and working their way up if they see potential.
Many have already started working either in part-time jobs or have created mini-businesses at young ages. Failure is temporary to the iGen, a generation that is resilient, resourceful and constantly learning.
But while iGens are motivated and wield huge potential when it comes to achieving, their potential to be good leaders is the least!
Because of today’s digitally connected lifestyle, most iGens find it difficult to connect face-to-face as their emotional and communication elements have been limited primarily to online social interactions and media — primarily Snapchat and Instagram.
Their influence is through imagery and short comments. They are inspired by motivational quotes and videos. They move fast and expect fast results, and if they don’t know how to do something, they will instantly Google it to find a solution or message a friend that has experience.
They have created a culture of connected separation. Alone, they get things done and find a way through their intricate knowledge of the internet and where to find the required knowledge and even skill. In groups, however, they have limited awareness of the importance of Emotional Intelligence (EI).
If they should find themselves in a leadership role, their ability to manage others is questionable. They would rather text than talk, and conflict is often solved by exclusion. The iGens lack people and social skills and are being set up for a difficult path ahead as the need to engage, coach and support others to help them achieve will be required to support their full potential.
But it doesn’t end here. Innovation will also be adversely affected. The iGen’s extent of knowledge is as vast as the internet, but not beyond it to ideas and processes that have not been developed yet.
Innovation also requires risk and iGens are more risk-averse than the generations that preceded them. This security focus, combined with less interactive brainstorming and less patience to see out results will have an adverse effect on future business growth.
Organisations who hire them for their attitude and passion will eventually find issues when it comes to promoting them.
And the schools aren’t helping. By maintaining the traditional education processes with a generation needing to be entertained rather than informed, they are breeding students who are spoon-fed information rather than trusting the iGens to discover knowledge and practically apply it.
They want a more practical educational “experience” — one that supports an objective. And one that makes learning fun. The iGens want to learn but they don’t want to be bored and they are ready put in the effort if they see its relevant.
In fact, on average, they take time to learn a new skill on YouTube — at least once a week — and use YouTube when they fail to understand what a teacher might be teaching.
So how do we prepare the iGens to achieve their potential? We must develop their leadership aptitude.
But, statistically speaking, leadership training is the least effective of any type of soft skill training for the same reason many kids do not do well at school — the training and the education are not personalised. In most leadership training, leadership models and characteristics are taught.
This is not sustainable. Leadership is not a set of characteristics to add to a person’s existing values, perceptions and competencies. To succeed, each person must search the different “environments” they exist in — with friends and family, as well as at work or school.
Each of these brings out different facets — our best or our worst. By identifying the existing leadership qualities in each of these environments and incorporating them into our own leadership model, we create sustainable leadership competence according to the individual. We have been doing this for organisational leaders since 2007, but who is doing this with our kids?
The teachers are not. Why? Because they take the role of the leader and most often make sure the students are followers in their quest to “keep them in line”.
Most parents are not, because they are simply not aware of the gaps or strategies and often focus only on the academic development of their kids.
So it still falls to the schools, but are they ready to take on the iGen challenge?
Private schools like Institut Le Rosey and Kingsley Leadership Academy are applying new education strategies to support these kids in developing leadership skills through the education process. Kingsley, for example, achieves this through student teams — where the students teach each other and are supported by coaches in bringing out the best in each team member.
They also capitalise on personalising knowledge retention through creating project-based learning where student teams combine subjects to solve bigger, more practical problems. Student teams are carefully crafted to both challenge and support students in develop their personal leadership identity and improve communication and influence skills.
Currently, most iGens are like a Ferrari — a car with power and huge potential but which won’t get far unless you put petrol in it. That petrol, as far as iGens are concerned, is the ability to know how to confidently inspire others and create tribes, helping them to passionately apply their power and potential to group achievement.
Arthur Carmazzi is a consultant and speaker on thought leadership.