GenX and GenZ on Personal Leadership and the Future

This week, over dinner, our family talked about our views on politics, life, and leadership. I was surprised by some of the strong opinions on world leaders, the environment, and how they view the future. In our house, it’s two Gen Z teens and two Gen X parents with an extra Gen Z perspective thrown in this week from an exchange student living with us. I cornered my daughter early one morning after a particularly engaging nighttime discussion and asked her to co-write a blog post with me. She oh-so-generously agreed. We brainstormed questions, and both went away into our own cozy corner to write our responses. Here’s the where we landed. To be clear, I’m Alli and am a part of Gen X, and L is my Gen Z daughter.

1. How do you define success?

Alli: It used to be about the pace of my promotions and the size of my paycheck. Over the past few years, I’ve shifted my definition to have a greater focus on satisfaction. L: Success is personal. You need to feel it and believe it as opposed to simply reaching external achievements. Success is also about more than perfect results. For example, I’m in High School and of course get grades on all my tests and assignments. Part of success is persevering through a hard task. Even if the grade is not what you wanted, but you feel like you have done the best you can, then you have succeeded.

2. Share one thing you wish you had known sooner?

Alli: Two things: 1) There will always be more work to do. You choose when you call it a day knowing that while it’s important to crank out work, you also need to choose to connect, relax, and recharge to be and do your best. 2) Parenting is freaking hard. (Kudos to my mom and dad who survived raising me and I assume that means I’ll survive too.) L: Something I wish I knew sooner is that we don’t all have the same gifts. My friend is great at Chemistry, it comes easy to her, but not for me. I’m an athlete, and I excel in fitness where she gets wiped out sooner. Everyone has strengths, you have to find out what yours is. Also, just because you’re not gifted at something doesn’t mean you can’t work hard and do stupendously.

3. What role does technology play in your life?

Alli: My phone is usually nearby, and my laptop is often open. I’m a fan of social media not only from a business standpoint but because of the amazing relationships I’ve built that have transitioned from online to offline in meaningful ways. However, I admit, I do not get social notifications on my phone – no FB, no Twitter. I choose when I want to check in instead of a constant stream of bings demanding my attention. L: I don’t remember a time without a phone, iPad, or iPod in my life. Now, the screens are bigger, but it’s all about doing what I want to do where I want to do it.  I can watch a movie on Netflix in my room, in the car or on the TV, it really doesn’t matter. There is also a contrast between me and my mom. I’m more likely to be on Snapchat texting when she would text me on iMessages, and I totally ignore that app. If she wants me, she needs to reach out to me where I spend my time online. When it comes to social media, for the most part, we are not spending time in the same apps. I also like to get notified when I get a message so I can respond right away (or choose to ignore it.)

4. What makes someone’s personal leadership sparkle?

Alli: I’m a fan of people who recognize the humanity in other people. They see hard work, challenges, successes, and acknowledge them. When I look through my mental Rolodex of people whose personal leadership shines, another quality that stands out is those who are welcoming. It’s a gift to make people feel like a valued part of the group. L:  Someone’s personal leadership sparkles when they’re being creative. Also important is the way they approach helping others. They make other people see their strengths, feel good about themselves and the work they’ve done instead of bad about things that are less than perfect. I also think sparkly personal leadership requires honesty, confidence, and a positive attitude to new ideas.

5. Share your top strategy for achieving your goals?

Alli: I’m not a fan of journaling, but I am a big fan of using a paper planner. It’s different than taking two seconds and throwing an appointment in my online calendar. I can lay out steps, set milestones, and see progress towards my goals. It’s also a great way to visually manage key actions and not only focus on running from one meeting to the next. L: To achieve goals, I think you firstly need to have confidence in yourself and the others on your team. You also need a positive attitude because nothing is impossible to accomplish if you work hard enough and persevere. You also need to be open to new ideas that other people have for you and may or may not be out of your comfort zone. You’ve got to be brave and adventurous.

6. Describe the personal leadership of the person you want to work for?

Alli: The first words that come to mind are high integrity. Also, they show up, day after day, even when things are tough. In fact, they not only show up but bring the contagious belief that we’re going to get through this together and it will be freakin’ awesome. And they’re definitely creative, honest, positive, engaged, passionate, respectful, good listeners… L:  I want to work someone that knows what they are doing and is humbly confident. I also hope that they are resilient, optimistic, and open-minded.

7. What’s your biggest hope for the world of work?

Alli: Many companies are more about their rules, procedures, and regulations than creating a great place to work. That has to change; we need more human-centric workplaces. I also hope that people have the self-awareness to understand what makes a great fit for them and prioritize finding and creating places where they can thrive. L:  My biggest hope for the world of work is to get a job I’m confident in and enjoy. When you love the work you’re doing, you want to get up every day and do it, and it also makes you enjoy life. I want that! I think I also, personally, I want a smaller workplace. For me, a lot of people around can become stressful and overwhelming. By having a smaller workplace, I’ll feel more self-assured and accomplish more things. Bottom line, at work, I want to enjoy what I do and be and do my best every day.

8. What is your biggest fear about the future? Greatest hope?

Alli: The gun laws in the USA have to change dramatically. It’s both my fear, that they won’t, and hope that they will. L:  My biggest concern about the future is that it’s a mystery. What I will do for a living and who I will develop to be are still unfolding. I think not knowing scares me, but the possibility also excites me. But my greatest hope for the future is that I’ll get a job that I love to do and brings me positive energy, whether that is working in psychology or not.

9. What makes you feel connected?

Alli: Moving to the other side of the planet, I rely on tech for connection. I attended my brother’s wedding on FaceTime and have also said my first hello to new nieces and nephews from the other side of a screen. Away from devices, I also feel connected when at home, we close our laptops, put down our phones, and play a game as a family instead of living separate lives through our screens. L:  I think that what makes me feel connected to someone is how I am being treated. I feel very connected to my friends and family as they listen to me, take the time to understand me and support me no matter what. When I’m with them, I feel good about myself. I always try to do the same for them in return. Connection takes two people, not one person bending over backwards.

10. What issue do you think our world leaders need to be paying the most attention to now, to create a better world tomorrow? 

Alli: How about tweeting less about things that don’t matter, representing all constituents, and not only the extreme of a single party? World leaders need to bring people together to create a better tomorrow instead of one filled with hate, divides, and us vs. them mentality. L: I think the issue of climate change needs to be taken more seriously or I don’t know if there will be a better tomorrow. Pollution, fossil fuels, temps rising, and other hazardous gases are all killing our planet. Earth is soon going to be destroyed if action is not put in place to stop it. It will take new laws and changes from everyday people like me too. By taking this more seriously, we can change our path and have a healthy planet for a long time to come. There are few Gen Z people in the workplace today but over the next decade, that will change. Fortunately, my children and their friends make me heartened about our future. Big thank you to my awesome Gen Z daughter for sharing her thoughts here. Related: 25 Ways to Get Your Mojo Back