Every generation has its own unique flair regarding how they interact with the world, which also extends to their management styles. Today, we’re witnessing Generation Z step up to the management plate, and they’re doing so amidst a wave of stereotypes. These young leaders, born between 1997 and 2012, are often pigeonholed as tech-obsessed, social media-driven, lacking the soft skills necessary for effective leadership. However, it’s time to shatter these preconceived notions, delve into what genuinely characterizes Gen Z managers, and explore what they bring to the proverbial table.
Tech-Savvy, Not Tech-Dependent
First, let’s tackle the idea that Gen Z can’t live without their gadgets. A common misconception about Gen Z is that they’re over-reliant on technology, which probably stems from the fact that they’re true digital natives, meaning they were born with today’s advanced technology at their fingertips. While they undeniably grew up in an era of rapid technological advancement, that doesn’t mean they can’t function without tech. What it does mean is that Gen Z is skilled at utilizing technology as a tool to enhance communication, productivity, and innovation. Their expertise with data analysis gives them an edge in making informed decisions based on real-time information, allowing them to streamline processes and excel in a dynamic work environment.
Another prevalent myth is that Gen Z managers aren’t good communicators because they don’t know how to converse unless it’s through a digital device like emails, text threads, or DMs. In fact, according to a study by Resume Builder, 74 percent of managers and leaders believe Gen Z is more difficult to work with, with 36 percent of those respondents attributing it to communication weaknesses. In truth, however, Gen Z is redefining workplace communication and collaboration because they know how to blend traditional communication methods with modern technology to create a more inclusive and collaborative work culture that knows how to reach out to, engage with, and connect people with different communication styles.
Gen Z is sometimes accused of being impulsive decision-makers , but in reality, Gen Z leaders are all about balance—their decision-making process is a blend of intuition and data-driven analysis. In other words, they carefully evaluate situations, considering both empirical data and human factors. This balanced approach ensures decisions are logical, empathetic, and aligned with both business objectives and their team’s morale.
Flexible and Adaptable
Adaptability is another hallmark of Gen Z management. Having grown up in a world of constant change, (from technological advancements to global events like the COVID-19 pandemic) they have had to be resilient and adaptable. As managers, they bring this flexibility to the workplace, tending not to be fans of stiff rules that stifle creativity and growth. Instead, they’re open to new ideas and can switch gears when needed.
Champions of Well-Being and Inclusivity
According the HR Daily Advisor, “Since Gen Z’s debut in the workforce in 2020, members of this cohort have challenged conventional workplace norms by prioritizing things like mental health, work/life balance, pay equity, and flexible scheduling.” It’s no surprise, then, that Gen Z managers place a high value on employee well-being and inclusivity . They recognize that a diverse and mentally healthy workforce is a must for long-term success, so they advocate for policies and practices that support mental health, work-life balance, and diversity. In so doing, they create a more inclusive and supportive workplace where every team member feels valued and empowered.
Focusing on Sustainable and Ethical Practices
More than simply buzzwords for Gen Z managers, sustainability and ethics are integral principles in their leadership philosophy. Deeply aware of global issues like climate change and social inequality, Gen Z leaders aim to implement sustainable practices and ethical decision-making in their management style, aligning business goals with social and environmental responsibility.
Authentic, Vulnerable, and Compassionate
Finally, Gen Z managers are redefining leadership through authenticity, vulnerability, and compassion. This generation isn’t afraid to show their human side by acknowledging their strengths and weaknesses. They also recognize that compassion and empathy breed trust and respect within their teams, creating a culture of open communication and continuous learning. Capturing this ethos succinctly, co-founder and executive chairman of 369 Global Muraly Srinarayanathas says, “We are all human, [with] personal struggles and challenges outside the office, so it’s important to practice empathy and compassion towards all stakeholders, including your employees and your clients.”
The realities of Gen Z managers are far more nuanced and positive than stereotypes suggest. Far from being merely tech-obsessed youths, they’re thoughtful, adaptive leaders who are reshaping the managerial landscape. Their unique blend of technology, empathy, and innovation is setting a new standard for leadership, well-suited for 21st-century opportunities and challenges.
By Octavio Lepe
Octavio is the search practice leader for Executive Management, Food & Agriculture, Sales & Marketing, and D&I in the Americas.
Barbachano International is the premier executive search and leadership advisory firm in the Americas (USA, Mexico, Canada, and Latin America) with a focus on diversity and multicultural target markets. Outplacement, Exe