I had a profound fear strike me on the issue of differences across the generations. Anyone who has read on this topic knows that there will be challenges in leading a diverse workforce made up of different generations. I alluded to this in an earlier post. The short issue statement is that generations differ on values due to the significant events we experience. Examples include the depression, WWII, Vietnam, Columbine, 9/11. The earlier post goes into it more, but an example would be G.I. Generation was known for their selflessness and commitment to society.
So what was so profound.. that I am now feeling inadequate as a leadership development expert. First what lead me to this thought... I have been reading and listening to famous speeches, stories and history on WWII, the pacific & D-Day for several days(See my last post). Coupled with some additional reading I had been doing on Martin Luther King and his Birmingham letter from prison... it struck me as strange the impact these stories had on my sense of who I was. I was too young or not even born then, but somehow I was able to relive these events. My sense of sacrifice.. what someone should face for the good of others was changing. Through study and experience with history, I was embracing the same values of the GI Generation.
My Fear: Are we missing this in programs we offer to young employees?
We know that these events helped form the value system of their generations. Values that future generations do not necessarily understand. For example, WWII vets came home with a new sense of citizenship. I am reminded of the story of John Brady, one of the flag raisers at Iwo Jima. He came home believing he an obligation to others because he survived when 1000s died taking the island. The question is why shouldn't other generations be exposed to these stories in a way that instills in them the same sense of citizenship. The same sense of it is not all about having fun.. or being able to do what you always want.
These significant events have taught their generations what is important to success and happiness. They have raised a consciousness among the generation.. but the lessons should be shared. Are we digging deeply enough in the personal development of these young employees? Will it will be years before they go through a leadership program where they are challenged by these sorts of stories? Are we even considering how important these stories are in our current leadership programs?