In the GCC region, the overall population is becoming dominated by younger people and, naturally, this is also being reflected in the composition of the workforce that comprises more and more members of Generation Y or ‘millennials’ (those born between 1981 and 1996) and, increasingly, Generation Z (those born between 1995 and 2015).
Although having such a young workforce leads to many organisational benefits and opportunities, it also introduces new challenges, particularly in understanding how to manage and lead these newest generations that are proving to be an unrivalled force of their own. We engaged in very candid and deep conversations with multiple millennials and Gen Z participants across the GCC through small focus groups, and established the following five major takeaways with regards to Gen Z's views on leadership.
There was a clear consensus among participants that a 'leader' is not someone with a fancy-sounding title or someone who is “sitting at the highest hierarchies of an organisation”. In stark contrast, the participants defined a leader as someone who motivates, has the right capabilities and can manage, take charge and offer guidance to help a group of people work cohesively in order to achieve a common goal. Leaders do this best by knowing how to allocate people to the right roles and by orchestrating their efforts behind the scenes, whilst empowering them to take the lead. They also define a leader as somebody who motivates and inspires others and focuses more on creating leaders rather than earning followers. Finally, the most important attribute of a leader to Gen Y and Z is that he or she is someone who can be looked up to and perceived as a role model.
When we asked participants to rank how important leadership is in comparison to other critical features of the workplace, we found that leadership ranked as one of the top three factors contributing to engagement, consistently triumphing over other factors such as compensation. Although, not as important as the opportunity to learn and to grow, having a great leader that encourages you to come to work and apply your skills is highly valued by our participants. More importantly, our young participants are not willing to compromise their comfort and remain employed long-term with leaders that they don’t trust or respect.
Out of the many leadership traits and skills our participants highlighted as important to them, there were some that stood out consistently. We were able to prioritise them and group them into five distinct themes that describe the different ‘facets’ of the ideal leader the youth want to work with.
Young employees are often forced to deal with ineffective leaders, who seem to do things and behave in ways that are off-putting and can contribute to disengagement. Some of the biggest examples of these behaviours, which leaders should be careful to avoid, are:
The reality is that the onus for establishing the right calibre of leadership is on both employers and those individuals holding, or aspiring to hold, leadership positions.We highlight the top three organisational and individual strategies that our participants agree should be used to strengthen leadership qualities and abilities.
Today, the GCC youth value the importance of leadership and appreciate its importance to their own engagement, development and success. However, they aspire to work with leaders who have mastered the art of leadership, demonstrating certain key qualities and behaviours that help bring the most out of them and make traditional employment worthwhile.
With this understanding, both organisations and individuals serving as leaders or aspiring to become future leaders, should seek to develop the right leadership capabilities particularly those softer, behavioural skills that support leaders in adopting a fully rounded leadership style. Download the report to find out more.
Middle East Government and Public Sector Leader & Global Advisory Government and Public Sector Leader, PwC Middle East
Tel: +971 2 694 6800
People & Organization Partner, PwC Middle East
Senior Manager, People & Organisation, PwC Middle East
Tel: +971 56 480 3085