Working for Caterpillar has provided me with many opportunities, one being the chance to mentor a manager. After I applied for the scheme, I was shortly paired with Bruno Emilio de Oliveira, a manufacturing and supply chain professional who manages a Caterpillar factory in Brazil.
As a mentee, I have been sharing the point of view as a young person in engineering. Together Bruno and I discussed our thoughts around the generation gap in the workplace. Prior to placement, the age gap never crossed my mind despite the average age of an engineer in the UK being 54.
Naturally, our generation has its differences with those in the UK average. Our lines of discussion which followed were around these differences as a result in newer generations preferring a different leadership style to the older generations.
The Leadership Styles
As a manager Bruno is well-versed in the different leadership styles along with their respective pros and cons, these styles are as follows:
Note: If you want to learn more about different leadership styles click here
These styles are widely adopted as the basis for leadership, but there are so many different avenues one could take on their journey as a leader. Bruno started me on my journey to developing my own style through his questioning of what I expected from a leader, and which leadership styles would be a better fit for our new generations in the workplace.
Leadership Styles for The Next Generation
Naturally, different leadership styles develop depending on the person and can change with the work situation and environment. Yet something Bruno questioned got me thinking: does my generation prefer a particular style of leadership?
I initially started looking at Generation Y, investigating which types of management they favour in the workplace. Soon after a bit of googling, I found that roughly three quarters of generation Y prefer a participative leader. Find out more in this academic paper from Pepperdine University.
Now, when I googled Generation Z and what they prefer in a leader I found that they generally value 5 things. These are as follows:
Furthermore, newer generations want to be able to forge a relationship with their manager so that it lasts a lifetime. Read Forbes’s The Top 5 traits Gen Z look for in Leaders
With baby boomers reaching retirement age, Generation Y already in the workforce (1981-1999), and Generation Z just starting their working life, it is vital that managers are educated on the importance of the different styles so they can adapt to the needs of the up-and-coming generations to maximise their full potential.
What I Think Makes a Good Manager
Having been in leadership positions at university in addition to my placement in the engineering workplace, I have been exposed to a range of different leadership styles. By listening to employee feedback, I was able to observe which styles were more effective, and which were favoured by the team members.
Discussing this with Bruno has been the most enlightening experience for me as I was able to hone my skills and start thinking about the ways in which I can develop into leadership, and what I can do to help others develop their styles too.
An important point Bruno made – a leader must also be vulnerable. Leaders are not superheroes; they make mistakes just like everyone else. This is also discussed by Brené Brown during her Ted Talk: The Power of Vulnerability.
I found it so refreshing to hear this talk as it was describing how a manager should behave in times of mistakes. From my experience so far in the workplace, the managers who own up to their mistakes are more popular among colleagues and tend to get the best out of their team.
Bruno is an excellent example of a leader who utilises all five styles, and with his employee satisfaction, contributions to the company, and willingness to learn and grow he has proved to be an excellent role model. Perhaps utilising these styles in unequal proportions, with more focus on the participative and transformational approaches would be favourable for our generation.
The key information I’ve learnt is to make mistakes. Naturally as a student engineer I have made plenty of them, but now I am confident that the more I make the closer I will be to becoming a good leader. With the knowledge of the five leadership styles and inspiration from my role models, I have a much broader understanding of the older generations within our workforce, and hope to utilise this to bridge the gap with team members wherever my career takes me.