A few years ago, I was preparing for a recruiting trip at my alma mater, Miami University (Ohio), and had the opportunity to connect with Dr. Megan Gerhardt, one of the leadership professors in the business school. After exchanging emails, we met in person and had the first of many conversations about leadership, navigating generational differences in the workforce, and why Millennials have gotten such a bad reputation. She has also provided leadership training to a number of my colleagues through her consultancy, The Gerhardt Group, and I always learn a lot when I talk to her. Today, we dive into a lot, including what it means to be “Gentelligent” - a movement that Megan started, how different generations view leadership, the positive side of Millennials, and what Generation Z has in store for us. You can listen here, on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, or Spotify. And, if you have not already, please leave a review either in your listening app or via the comments below. Thank you!
Key Takeaways from our Conversation:
On being “Gentelligent”. With the recent college graduations of the first Gen Z’s, we now have five unique generations in the workforce: Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, Baby Boomers, and Traditionalists. These five generations bring diversity of perspective and talent to the work environment, but their intentions can often be misinterpreted by others. Dr. Gerhardt founded the concept of “gentelligence” which is helping organizations and people to understand why each generation behaves the way it does and to appreciate the diversity that a multi-generational workforce brings.
On Millennials. While Millennials have been at the forefront of negative stories and commentary for years, Dr. Gerhardt noted that Millennials bring a number of positive traits as well, including their tech savviness and ability to deliver a high quality project quickly. She also shared that while Millennials can come across as entitled to other generations, she has learned through conversations and research with hundreds of students that they view behavior others might perceive as entitled as normal behavior based on the environment they were raised in - both through their families and the macro culture.
On leading people in other generations. As Millennials comprise 20 percent of leadership roles compared to 18 percent of Baby Boomers today, there are going to be situations where someone in a younger generation is leading someone in an older generation. Dr. Gerhardt’s leadership advice for Millennials is to follow principles that stand the test of time for all generations: understand the unique value that each person brings to the team, respect them and their experience (particularly Baby Boomers), ask questions, and show humility and vulnerability to others.
On her predictions for Gen Z. As Gen Z enters the workforce, Megan highlighted the opportunity for Millennials to welcome them and create a more positive environment than the one created for Millennials. She also noted that Gen Z represents a shift in what people are looking for in a “career”, with a portion of the generation looking for a conservative, traditional job in response to experiencing the recession as a child whereas others are pursuing the gig economy with multiple jobs, freelance work, and nontraditional careers (e.g. a social media influencer or a gamer). How Gen Z approaches their careers could have a major impact on work and careers in the future.
About Dr. Megan Gerhardt
Dr. Megan Gerhardt is a Professor of Leadership and Development at Miami University (Ohio) as well as the Director of Leadership Development for the Farmer School of Business, Co-Director at the Isaac and Oxley Center for Business Leadership, Founder of the Gerhardt Group, and a Gallup Certified Strengths Leadership Coach. SHe has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Iowa and a PhD in Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management from the University of Iowa Tippie College of Business. Along with her teaching, program leadership, and research work at Miami University, she provides leadership and Gentelligence consulting for business across the county through the Gerhardt Group.