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A STUDY ON HOW GENERATIONAL COHORT AFFECTS

LEADERSHIP STYLE
By Emily Barlean

December 17, 2014
ABSTRACT
In today’s workplace all four generations exist together—from Millennials to
Traditionalists. This provides the unique opportunity for Millennials, Gen Xers, Boomers, and
Traditionalists to interact. In fact, these generations are doing much more than just interacting—
they are leading each other. Most often Baby Boomers and Traditionalists are leading teams of
Gen Xers and Millennials, but there are also instances of Gen Xers and Millennials leading the
older generations. It can be challenging to have generations collide, especially when they do not
understand each other’s communication and leadership styles. For that reason, there is a greater

need for different age groups to understand one another in order to promote civility. This paper
seeks to prove that the generation one is born into affects their leadership style; this would
provide members of all generations with more realistic expectations and a greater understanding
of why their managers and colleagues act the way they do.
By thoroughly investigating the areas of generations, communications, and leadership
and then synthesizing them as a body of work, research proved that both personality and
communication style are highly impacting of leadership style, and because different generations
have very different backgrounds and communication styles, generation does have an impact on
leadership. It was discovered the Traditionalists lead with more of a top-down approach, Baby
Boomers lead with motivation and through building relationships, Generation Xers lead by
demonstration, and Millennials prefer to lead as a team, working together to accomplish a task.
The implications of this study will prove extremely valuable to anyone who enters the
working world planning to lead someone or be led by someone who was born outside of their
own generation.

TABLE OF CONTENTS
Introduction.........................................................................................................................6-8
Operational Definitions.......................................................................................................8-11
Limitations..........................................................................................................................11
Literature Review................................................................................................................11-18
Methodology.......................................................................................................................18-19
Chapter 1: Leadership
Defining Leadership Style by Generation...........................................................................19-25

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Leadership Development...............................................................................................19
Trait Theory vs. Behavioral Theory...............................................................................19-21
Relationship Theories....................................................................................................22
Situational Theory..........................................................................................................22-25
Five Leadership Styles........................................................................................................25-31
Traditional Commander.................................................................................................25-26
Democratic Developer...................................................................................................26-27
Relationship Oriented Motivator...................................................................................27-28
Hands On Coach............................................................................................................28-29
Avoider...........................................................................................................................29-30
Summary........................................................................................................................30-31
Chapter 2: Communication
Communication in the Workplace.......................................................................................31-45
Communication Style Inventory.........................................................................................31-42
Expressiveness...............................................................................................................34-35
Preciseness.....................................................................................................................35-37
Verbal Aggressiveness...................................................................................................37-38
Questioningness.............................................................................................................38-39
Emotionality...................................................................................................................40-41
Impression Manipulativeness.........................................................................................41-43
Communication Methods....................................................................................................43-44
Motives for Communication...............................................................................................44-45
Chapter 3: Generations

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Generations in the Workplace.............................................................................................45-69
Millennials..........................................................................................................................46-54
Personality......................................................................................................................46-50
Leadership Style.............................................................................................................50-53
Communication Preferences..........................................................................................53-54
Generation X.......................................................................................................................54-59
Personality......................................................................................................................54-56
Leadership Style.............................................................................................................57-58
Communication Preferences..........................................................................................58-59
Baby Boomers.....................................................................................................................59-64
Personality......................................................................................................................59-61
Leadership Style.............................................................................................................61-62
Communication Preferences..........................................................................................62-64
Traditionalists......................................................................................................................64-69
Personality......................................................................................................................64-66
Leadership Style.............................................................................................................66-67
Communication Preferences..........................................................................................68-69
Results.................................................................................................................................70
Implications.........................................................................................................................71-75
Conclusions.........................................................................................................................76-77
Bibliography.......................................................................................................................78-83
Appendix.............................................................................................................................84
INTRODUCTION

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As Traditionalists and Baby Boomers continue to push back their retirement dates and
Millennials advance further into their careers, American businesses are facing the reality that
multiple generations are currently serving together in the workplace. This combined workforce
tends to range from the ages of 20- to 70-years-of-age; and, not only are multiple generations
working together, but they are also serving in management positions concurrently. In many
organizations, the range of managers and leaders spans multiple decades; in fact, there are
Traditionalists, as well as Millennials, working together in top-level positions. This generational
diversity in the workplace often means that workforces are exposed to the management styles of
multiple different generations at once with executive teams’ ages spanning decades.
This can cause trepidation for those in management and non-management positions alike;
Millennials in middle management wonder how to get through to their Boomer bosses and
Boomers wonder how to handle reporting to young adults sitting in leadership roles. Plus, just as
different generations lead in different ways, they also expect to be led in different ways as well
(Sessa, Kabacoff, Deal and Brown). It is no surprise that disruptive issues can stem from these
generations not knowing how to handle their differences. For example, Boomers may feel that
the younger generations do not work hard enough and are too chatty with one another, not
realizing that studies have shown that Millennials simply work better when collaborating with
others (Kalman).
In addition, research claims that generation gaps are farther and wider apart than ever
before, largely because of how much the world has developed and changed over the last 100
years (Sessa, Kabacoff, Deal and Brown). The truth of the matter is that Traditionalists learned
their leadership skills in a much different time than Millennials did, and so it is comprehensible

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that they would approach situations differently than the Boomers, Generation Xers or
Millennials.
Nonetheless, in a recessed economy, these very different generations are being forced to
work side-by-side in a way that has not been experienced before. As Nancy Hatch Woodward
states in The Secured Lender, “boundaries around life have dissolved. To Baby Boomers, this has
meant taking your laptop home with you and working during the weekend. For Gen Xers, it
means that they bring more of their personal concerns into the workplace” (44). This raises many
questions about how the multigenerational American workforce will handle being exposed to
leadership practices of generations dissimilar to their own.
There is much research that discusses the differences between the generations; however,
it is imperative to look more specifically at the differences between these generations and the
effects those differences may have on management and work styles. Furthermore, by researching
the generations themselves, one can begin to understand where each generation finds value in
terms of leadership, which will provide a clearer picture about the leadership skills and practices
among these four generations of managers.
Therefore, the premise of this paper is to prove that the generation one is born into
directly affects leadership style. Furthermore, it hopes to identify specific styles of leadership
that are most often used by each different generation—to the point of being able to predict
leadership style based on age.
In order to prove this hypothesis, research will first be done to define the different
leadership styles; this research will be especially focused on communication styles that relate to
each leadership style and will allow the author to match preferred styles of communication in
leadership with the preferred communications styles of each generation. By matching up

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evidence that different generations have different communication styles and evidence that
different leaders have different communication styles, it will become clear that generation
impacts the way a person leads.
Any executive knows that promoting collegiality and understanding in the workplace can
go a long way, which is why the implications for this research could be exorbitant for future
managers and employees. Not only will understanding the differences and similarities in each
generation allow people to work better together and adapt to each other’s communication styles,
but also it will provide a “guide” or sorts that will help prepare workers’ expectations long before
stepping into the office.
Imagine a Baby Boomer starting a new career path and entering a new industry in which
he is supervised by a Millennial; instead of butting heads about whether flexible hours or
scheduled hours is better, both parties can be prepared to understand the other’s viewpoints
ahead of time. Imagine a Millennial who doesn’t understand why their Generation X boss never
seems to delegate projects to them; this research could assist that Millennial in understanding
why their boss acts in this way and provide input as to how the two can work better together.
All in all, this research aims to prove that working with members of different generations
can and should be beneficial to the workforce as a whole, not stress-inducing. By holding a better
understanding of one another, future workforces can leverage differences, instead of fighting
them.
--OPERATIONAL DEFINITIONS
The following terminology will be used frequently within the body of this paper. By
understanding their definitions, readers will be equipped to better understand the findings of this

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research from the perspective of the author. The definitions are not verity, but developed through
cumulative research.

Millennial
The Millennial generation, also referred to as Generation Y, consists of people born
between the years of 1981 and 2000. Although there is some disparity among scholars as to the
ages that make up Millennials, for the purpose of this paper, the previously stated dates will be
accepted. Like any generation, the Millennials are defined by life events that took place during
their childhood; for Gen Y, these events include things such as the terrorist attacks of September
11, the Virginia tech shooting (and other school shootings), and the rapid growth of technology,
particularly, the Internet. Millennials are the first generation to grow up with technology and, as
one scholar stated, “they treat their multi-tasking hand-held gadgets almost like a body part”
(Malikhao and Servaes 68). Generation Y is most often described to be confident, upbeat, and
self-expressive. They are also often more liberal, more educated, more ethically and culturally
diverse, and less religious (Hartman and McCambridge 26). Also, because helicopter parents1
raised many of the Millennials, they often crave feedback and praise and prefer to work in teams
(Hartman and McCambridge 23).

Generation X
Generation X is made up of those who were born between 1965 and 1980. According to an
article by Valerie I. Sessa, Robert I. Kabacoff, Jennifer Deal, and Heather Brown in The
1 Helicopter Parent: noun, informal 1. “A style of child rearing in which an overprotective mother or father
discourages a child's independence by being too involved in the child's life: In typical helicopter parenting, a
mother or father swoops in at any sign of challenge or discomfort” (“Helicopter Parent”).

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Psychologist-Manager Journal, they came of age during the time of MTV, AIDS, the Challenger
incident, the oil crisis, and the fall of Communism (Sessa, et al. 51). This has led the generation
to have a greater sense of economic uncertainty and skepticism, which has led them to be
“individualistic, risk-tolerant, self-reliant, and entrepreneurial” (Gentry, et al. 41). They are often
called latchkey kids, because not only did they grow up during a time when it was becoming
more common for both parents to be in the workforce, but they also grew up during a time when
divorce was becoming more and more prevalent. For that reason, Generation Xers spent a lot of
time without their parents and became more independent because of it. The final defining feature
of Generation X is the fact that they “grew up during a time of epic political, economic, and
social change, which made them wary of authority and willing to question leadership”
(Beekman 15).

Baby Boomer
Baby Boomers are currently the largest generation, consisting of more than 78 million
people who were born between 1945 and 1964. The Boomer generation was “profoundly
affected by events such as the Vietnam War, civil rights movement, Watergate, and the first walk
on the moon” (Sessa et al., 50). They also grew up during the advent of television and a time of
economic prosperity, which lead them to be optimistic, ambitious, and sometimes labeled as
workaholics who place higher value on work than family (Gentry et al. 40; Martin &
Gentry 180).

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Traditionalist
The final generation is the Traditionalist generation, commonly referred to as the Veteran
Generation, the Silent Generation, and the Greatest Generation. These people were born before
1945 and grew up during the terrible economic climate of the Great Depression, which made
them savers who spent money only when necessary (Beekman 15). They experienced World
Wars and military influences, which made them very respectful of authority and understanding of
hierarchy and defined structure.
--LIMITATIONS
This study has several limitations that could affect the validity of the findings. First, there
is an unavoidable bias of the author, who is a member of the millennial generation. All research
was reviewed and reported with as much objectivity as possible; however, there is always the
possibility that a subconscious bias presented itself in article selection, etc. Another limitation is
in the fact that this research focused primarily on the communication styles of the different
generations and how that impacts leadership. It does not take into account other possible reasons
for leadership differences among these age groups. It is almost certainly definite that there are
multiple influences on a person’s leadership style; this research only aims to prove one of those
influences, but could easily be limited by that focus.
--LITERATURE REVIEW
The premise of this paper is to prove that the generation that one is born into has a
significant influence on a person’s leadership style. Although there is no research specifically
proving this hypothesis, there is an abundance of scholarly research that focuses on the topics of

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leadership and generational differences, separately. By thoroughly researching these areas of
study and synthesizing them as a whole body of work, the literature proves to hold fascinating
insight into the supposition that leadership is affected by generation; specifically toward the fact
that communication style is highly impacting of leadership style and different generations
communicate very differently. The body of work that was studied included research from
reputable business magazines, generation-focused books and communications, business,
sociological and psychological journals.
In a study published in Human Performance, Angelique Bakker-Pieper and Reinout E.
DeVries researched “The Incremental Validity of Communication Styles Over Personality Traits
for Leader Outcomes.” This research is essential for proving the premise that leadership is
affected by generation because it supports the concept that a person’s communication style is a
stronger determinant of leadership type than personality is. This is important because personality
types can vary greatly within age groups, but communication styles are often distinctive of each
generation. As the article states, “in general, personality measures may be hard to assess in a
leader-subordinate situation or are conceptually not linked with leader criteria. However, leader
behavior generally includes many communicative acts, therefore this subset of behavior may be
specifically relevant for leadership” (Bakker-Pieper and DeVries 2).
The study started by relating personality and communication styles, which are
interlinked. The article referenced the HEXACO Personality Inventory—Revised, which is an
instrument that measures personality dimensions that have been found to be “cross-culturally
replicable” (Bakker-Pieper and DeVries 3). HEXACO is an acronym that stands for honesthumility, emotionality, extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and openness to
experience. The authors also noted the “Communication Styles Inventory (CSI), which

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recognizes six communication styles: expressiveness, preciseness, verbal aggressiveness,
questioningness, emotionality, and impression manipulativeness” (Bakker-Pieper and DeVries 3).
The identification of these two sets of traits is meant to show that communication styles
are closely related to personality traits, however the communication styles are more specific,
where as the HEXACO dimensions are broader. For this reason, the authors made the assumption
that “communication style is conceptually more closely linked with leader criteria and will
consequently have incremental validity” (Bakker-Pieper and DeVries 5). To prove this point, the
authors decided to propose two hypotheses; first, that “a leader’s expressive communication style
has incremental validity over leader extraversion for leader outcomes, and second that a leader’s
precise communication style has incremental validity over leader conscientiousness for leader
outcomes” (Bakker-Pieper and DeVries 5).
In order to prove these hypotheses, the authors obtained two community samples by
personally contacting friends, tapping social networks, posting flyers, and snowballing. In study
one, a single survey was completed by 165 participants who were older than 16 and who worked
for any organization; the survey asked them questions about their leader’s communication style,
personality, and leader criteria. For the second survey, 122 participants participated in the same
survey; however, it was split into two sections that they answered at two different times. The
average ages of the participants were 37. The surveys asked 96 questions that related to the
HEXACO and 96 questions that related to the CSI.
After collecting the surveys and analyzing the results, the authors tested their hypotheses
that expressiveness had incremental predictive validity over extraversion and preciseness over
conscientiousness by completing several regression analyses (Bakker-Pieper and DeVries 10).
Their analyses provided support for both of their hypotheses after finding “significant evidence

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that communication styles are more relevant for leader criteria than personality traits” (BakkerPieper and DeVries 11).
Essentially, the study found that employees were more satisfied with their leaders when
the leader had strong communication style indicators (expressiveness and preciseness) than when
they had the related personality traits of extraversion and conscientiousness. Although these traits
are somewhat related, the study shows that the communication style was more relevant to the
leader’s style than that leader’s broad personality traits. This could be interpreted more easily, but
realizing that being extroverted could lead to being expressive, but the two are not necessarily
mutually exclusive; therefore, one cannot assume than an extrovert will be a good leader, but one
can assume that someone who is expressive will be a good leader.
The study went on to discuss the implications of these findings, which help to explain in
more detail the true definitions of these communication styles. First, the authors discussed the
area of expressiveness and conferred that “expressiveness refers to a tendency to talk and to steer
conversations easily, to demonstrate a sense of humor, and to interact with others in an informal
way” (Bakker-Pieper and DeVries 12). The skill of expressiveness is therefore positively related
to leader behaviors. In the same way, “preciseness refers to a tendency to communicate in an
organized, well-structured, and well-worded way” (Bakker-Pieper and DeVries 13). This is
important because it means that a leader’s employees will know what to expect from them,
which is important to leadership style. This will be valuable to proving this paper’s premise
because it helps to demonstrate that communication styles are significantly associated with
leadership style; therefore, proving that generations communicate differently, can partially prove
that generation affects leadership style.

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There are many articles that discuss different generations’ communication preferences, in
particular, Generation Y or the Millennial generation. The Journal of Business Psychology
published a very helpful literature review on millennials in the workplace from a communication
perspective in 2010 and discussed the things that Millennials value and expect in the workplace.
The authors, Karen K. Myers and Kamyab Sadaghiani, began the article by defining the
millennial generation and noted “popular perception is that Millennials are impatient, selfimportant, and disloyal, among other unattractive qualities from an organizational standpoint”
(Myers and Sadaghiani 226). They also noted that others believe Millennials have many positive
attributes, such as diversity acceptance, technology aptitude, and more. The authors then looked
at the intersection of “millennials’ characteristics and communication-related dynamics that are
especially relevant for performance and member relationships in contemporary organizations”
(Myers and Sadaghiani 226).
The article reviews literature on many different topics about millennials, communication,
and technology, and while not all parts are completely relevant to proving this premise, many
points directly discussed communication styles—which in turn draws parallels for this paper’s
premise. The authors found research that supported Millennials need for close relationships and
frequent feedback, their expectation of open communication, and their desire to work in teams
(Myers and Sadaghiani 229).
The overall conclusion of this article was that “Millennials do indeed have distinctive
characteristics that may make interacting with them different from with previous cohorts”
(Myers and Sadaghiani 234). These differences are likely to directly impact a Millennial’s
communication style, which (as previous stated) directly impacts leadership style.

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The Australian Library Journal released an article in February 2011 that discussed the
topics of technology, Millennials, and the cross-generational workforce. The paper, which was
double-blind peer reviewed, was written by a Millennial who aimed to find out which
generational traits manifest themselves as leadership styles for Millennials and what areas of
tension may arise as Millennials step into leadership positions (Murray 55). Murray’s research is
important to proving the basis of this paper because it helps to define the leadership style of one
of the four prevailing generations.
The questions posed in this piece of work were explored on a behavioral basis and often
based off of the personal experiences of the author, who was aged 29 and served as the Dean of
University Libraries when this article was written. The paper started by defining the four
generations and then moved into a literature review that investigated previous research into the
implications of Millennial behavior on leadership style. Murray’s literature review included
findings that “pointed out that Millennials have developed a ‘lifelong culture’ of behaviors they
will exhibit at all ages across their lifespan” (Murray 56). Those behaviors included things like a
desire for instant gratification, high expectations for their careers, and openness to collaboration
and teamwork. Because Murray worked as the Dean of University Libraries at the time of this
article, he often related findings back to the world of library service, noting that the behaviors of
Millennials can be accommodated for at libraries by “shifting hours of operation, to developing
new programming designed for Millennials, to implementing new library systems that operate
collaboratively and visually” (Murray 56).
Murray also found that Millennials had four tendencies that were especially prevalent,
including being highly social, ambitious, literal, and desiring of regimentation (58). The author
noted that these preferences could lead to an understanding of how Millennials lead. For

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example, having grown up with constant communication, Millennials are more interested in
collaboration and are likely to be understanding of socialization in the workplace. In fact, the
author went on to discuss how highly motivated the Millennial generation seemed to be by
collaboration and theorized that this could be a strong implication for their leadership style. Not
only will the Millennial generation be likely to toss out the traditional hierarchy, but also, they
may be more likely to introduce informal hierarchies that will “encourage creativity and buy-in
from members of the organization who may not have typically taken part in library policy and
decision making” (Murray 61).
The author also found many other behavioral tendencies that he believed would greatly
impact the way that Millennials lead. For example, Murray made note of the constant sharing
that members of the Millennial generation participate in online and via social media; in his
opinion, this sharing will lead to a more open leadership style that includes more company-wide
meetings and emails as well as the possibility of internal corporate blogs that keep the entire
workforce in the loop (61). Another behavioral tendency was noted as multitasking, which the
author mentioned could be both positive and negative for Millennial leaders. For example,
multitasking may lead Millennial leaders to “complete more organization-spanning projects than
leaders from the previous generations” (Murray 62); however, it may also cause Millennials’
employees to feel overworked or like they are being pulled in too many directions. Murray
suggested “successful Millennial leaders should maintain observations of the number of projects
underway in order to remain within the capacity of the individuals completing those projects as
well as him or herself” (62).
Other tendencies of Millennials included being nomadic, constantly connected to
technology, and interested in having work/life balance. These behaviors may lead Millennials to

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communicating more often by Smartphone or while on the move and away from the office. For
Millennials, working at all hours of the day seems natural; however, Murray mentioned that this
concept might be difficult for other generations to grasp. He suggested, “outlining the types of
situations that warrant communication after work hours” (Murray 63).
All in all, the article did a respectable job of reviewing the literature out there that
described Millennials’ behavioral styles and interpreting their applications for leadership
positions. That being said, the lack of actual quantitative research in this article and the focus on
one man’s personal experiences create strong limitations for this piece. As stated in the article,
“as more Millennials move into positions of leadership or authority, more in-depth research and
analysis will need to be conducted on the impact of Millennial leadership on a multigenerational
workforce” (Murray 64).
Each of the articles reviewed will have a lasting impact on this paper’s purpose. Whether
defining one particular generation’s communication style, proving that communication style
impacts leadership, or discussing how a generation leads, each paper (and further additional
research) provides strong proof that the generation one is born into has a direct affect on
leadership style.
--METHODOLOGY
To complete this analysis and prove that the generation one is born into has a direct affect
on leadership style, this author researched the areas of generations, communications, and
leadership in order to find correlations between the values and preferences of each generation
and their leadership outcomes.

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By thoroughly researching these areas of study and synthesizing them as a whole body of
work, this author hopes to prove that communication style is highly impacting of leadership
style, and because different generations communicate very differently, generation impacts
leadership. The body of work that was studied included research from scholarly journals in the
fields of communications, business, sociology and psychology as well as reputable business
magazines. Research was primarily conducted on Academic Search Premier—specifically
Communications and Mass Media Complete. Other information was drawn from books written
by a contact of the author named David Stillman, who founded Bridgeworks, a company whose
mission is to study generational differences and their implications in the workplace.
By comparing and contrasting previously conducted research findings, this author strives
to piece together ostensibly unrelated topics in order to prove that the generation one grows up in
directly affects leadership style.
--DEFINING LEADERHSIP STYLE BY GENERATION
Leadership Development
In order to begin matching up generational preferences with leadership styles, those
styles must first be identified. However, before defining the general styles of leadership, it is
important to take a step back and discuss leadership development. Answering the question of
“how are leaders developed?” could provide significant insight into whether or not there is
validity in the hypothesis that generation affects leadership style. There are many theories out
there that attempt to explain the question of ‘how’ when discussing leadership development.
From trait theory to behavioral theory, there are dozens of opinions about whether leaders are

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born or made. The following theories are the ones that are most regularly discussed among
academic researchers.

Trait Theory vs. Behavioral Theory
Perhaps the most commonly referenced theories are those of Trait Theory and Behavioral
Theory. As Kathleen Brown describes in the book The Handbook of Educational Theories, “Trait
Theory often identifies and describes key personality or behavioral characteristics shared by
successful leaders. [It is] developed from the belief that ability arises from innate, internal traits
that some have and some do not” (897). Essentially, this suggests that a leader is determined by
the personality traits with which they are born. In fact, many researchers have tried to identify
these innate skills by looking into many very diverse traits in order to be able to predict
leadership ability. For example:
Early scholars taking the trait approach attempted to identify physiological
(appearance, height, and weight), demographic (age, birth order,
education, and
socioeconomic status), personality (self-confidence and
aggressiveness),
intellectual (intelligence, decisiveness, judgment,
and knowledge), task-related
(achievement drive, initiative, and persistence), and
social characteristics (childrearing practices, sociability, and cooperativeness)
with leader emergence and
leader effectiveness. They focused on “what” an
effective leader is, not
necessarily on “how” to lead effectively.
(Brown 897)
All in all, Trait Theory hangs its hat on the idea that there is a single set of traits that
almost every leader has and people born with those traits are more likely to become leaders;
unfortunately for researchers who cling to this truth, there has been a lot of research done that
somewhat discredits Trait Theory. In the early 1900s “theorists compiled lists of traits but these
were often contradictory and no single trait was consistently identified with good leadership”
(Brown 898). This means that the researchers were not finding any real correlation between

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certain traits and good leadership—perhaps one person with a specific trait was a good leader,
while another person with the same trait was not.
For years, the theory was studied and nearly debunked; however, in recent years Trait
Theory has made a slight comeback, not in determining leadership style, but in determining
effective leadership. In fact, “researchers revealed that significant relationships do in fact exist
between leadership and such individual traits as intelligence, adjustment, extraversion,
conscientiousness, openness to experience, and general self-efficacy” (Brown 899). So, although
trait theory is not supported in terms of being able to predict leadership style based on innate
characteristics like height or lineage, there are some traits that are strong predictors.
Ironically, the ‘traits’ which researchers ended up finding to be stronger predictors lean
more toward behaviors; this is ironic because the most common alternatives to Trait Theory have
always been behavior theories in which researchers believe that leaders share behaviors. As
described by Raul Malos in his article “The Most Important Leadership Theories:”
Behavioral theories of leadership are based upon the belief that great leaders
are made, not born. Rooted in behaviorism, this leadership theory focuses on
the actions of leaders, not on mental qualities or internal states. According to
this theory, people can learn to become leaders through teaching and
observation. (417)
The difference between these two styles truly lies in the long-standing argument of
whether leaders can be made or if they are born containing instinctive skills needed to lead.
There are researchers out there who have conducted research that concludes that true leadership
is defined by a combination of both traits and behaviors. In an article in Personnel Psychology,
Scott Derue and his team conducted tests where they studied leader traits and leader behavior.
They found that “most leader traits can be organized into three categories: (a) demographics, (b)
traits related to task competence, and (c) interpersonal attributes. Similarly, leader behaviors are

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often discussed in terms of whether the behavior is oriented toward (a) task processes, (b)
relational dynamics, or (c) change” (11).
The researchers then matched traits such as task competence up with behaviors such as
task processes and hypothesized that the traits and behaviors would match up. Essentially, Derue
and his team set out to prove that the main traits that have been linked to leadership, can also be
identified as teachable behaviors. Derue’s research did find support for this hypothesis.

Relationship Theories
Another type of theory that academics use to determine leadership style is relationship
theory, which focuses on how a person interacts with others. This theory is sometimes called
Transformational Leadership Theory. Unlike Trait Theory or Behavioral Theory,
Transformational Leadership Theory does not specifically identify different styles of leadership,
but instead discusses the one thing that each leader has in common—the ability to transform
another person. Transformational Leadership Theory was introduced by leadership expert and
presidential biographer James MacGregor Burns and later expanded on by Bernard M. Bass
(Malos 419). Bass suggested that there were four mechanisms of transformational leadership:
intellectual stimulation, individualized consideration, inspirational motivation, and idealized
influence (Malos 419).
These four mechanisms essentially state that leaders are people who encourage creativity,
support and encourage others, are passionate about their goals and share that passion with their
employees, and serve as strong role models. Comparatively, relationship theories tend to lend
support to behavioral theories (to some degree), because they envision leaders as people who
have four behavioral skill sets that set them apart. The difference is that instead of saying ‘X type

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of behavior creates X type of leader,’ it assumes that all good leaders carry all four of the
previously listed behaviors.

Situational Theories
The final leadership theory that this paper will touch on is that of Situational Leadership
Theory (SLT). This theory was developed by “Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard in 1969 and has
four dimensions: task behavior, relationship behavior, follower (or subordinate) maturity, and
effectiveness. The theory asserts a curvilinear relationship between the variables and prescribes a
path through the quadrants that indicates the most effective leadership style” (Johansen 74).
More simply put, leaders select their course of action by evaluating all of the elements of a
situation. Researchers of this theory have developed a bell curve graph (two examples pictured
below) that demonstrates the ways in which SLT theory predicts leaders to react based on
relationship and task behavior.

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Table 1: SLT Graph #1 (Johansen 76)

Table 2: SLT Graph #2 (Vecchio 445)

Two graphs are shown in order to demonstrate how two different researchers interpreted
Heshey and Blanchard’s theory. In Human Resource Development Quarterly, Barry-Craig P.
Johansen described the curve as follows:
When a subordinate (or group of subordinates) is immature, little concern is given
to relationship behaviors. Instead, there is a strong need for task behavior—the SI
style is indicated. As the follower gains maturity, less task behavior is
required
and more relationship behavior is appropriate—S2. The S3 style is
prescribed as
the follower developers further. Very little task behavior is
required, and the need
for relationship behavior starts to decline. When the
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follower rates high in
S4 style because the follower
the leader. (75).

maturity, it is appropriate for the leader to exhibit an
now requires neither task nor relationship behaviors from

A simpler way to explain each of these quadrants comes after studying multiple
presentations of the bell curve. Quadrant 1 (bottom right) demonstrates the ‘telling’ style of
leadership that presents itself when the need for guidance is high and the support factor is low; in
this quadrant the leader is in high contact with their employee, supervising them closely.
Quadrant 2 (top right) demonstrates the ‘selling’ style of leadership that is presented when the
need for guidance is high and the support factor is also high; in this quadrant the leader explains
their decisions to their employees and is very open to answering questions. Quadrant 3 (top left)
demonstrates the ‘participating’ style of leadership that comes about when the need for guidance
is low and the support factor is high; in this quadrant the leader and the employee make decisions
together. Finally, Quadrant 4 (bottom left) demonstrates the ‘delegating’ style of leadership that
comes about when the need for guidance is low and the support factor is low; in this quadrant the
leader often completely turns over projects to their employee.
Obviously, there are many different opinions on how leaders are developed; but one thing
that many seem to agree on is the fact that leadership style depends on multiple factors.
Thorough research of the different theories and the different styles has found enough overlap to
appropriately argue that there is not one theory, trait, or behavior that defines a leader; instead,
the integration of these traits and behaviors create different styles of leaders. In fact, almost all of
the research read had different names for very similar leadership styles. Upon noticing this trend,
Scott Derue and his team at Personnel Psychology “integrated the literature on leader traits and
behaviors, and took a first step toward an integrative theory of how leader traits and behaviors
influence leadership effectiveness” (9). Derue’s hypotheses were supported.

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After doing thorough research of each theory and the numerous styles of leadership that
researchers offer, this author has developed an all-encompassing list of leadership styles that
integrates similar traits, behaviors, and styles into five general styles that cover the majority of
leadership traits and behaviors that have been identified in the business world. For the purpose of
this paper, these five styles will be named Traditional Commander, Democratic Developer,
Relationship-Oriented Motivator, Hands-On Coach, and Avoider; these five styles are defined
based on an analysis of research conducted by multiple academics over the last 100 years.

Defining Leadership Styles
Traditional Commander
The Traditional Commander Leadership style revolves around a leader’s focus on control;
this type of style encompasses other researchers’ types such as Transactional, Autocrat,
Bureaucrat, and Command and Control (Murray and Chua 193; Limbare 173; Boykin, et al., 2).
In “Differences in Leadership Styles and Motives in Men and Women: How Generational Theory
Informs Gender Role Congruity,” Duncan Murray and Sarah Chua define Transactional Leaders
as “focused on the exchange relationship between the leader (or organization) and the follower,
attempting to motivate their followers by targeting their desire for personal gain and the benefits
they receive from the exchange” (193). This is a traditional leadership style in which the leader
leads and the workers work. The leader does not give sappy, motivational speeches or ask for
advice—they hand down orders and expect their employees to fulfill their requests in order to
receive pay, health benefits, etc.
This is very similar to both the autocrat and bureaucrat leadership styles described by
Sameer Limbare in the Indian Journal Of Industrial Relations. Limbare describes these leaders

25

as having “no confidence in others [ . . . ] and directing orders to their associates and usually
keeping decisions and controls to themselves because they have assumed full responsibility for
decision-making” (173). The only difference between autocrat and bureaucrat is that the
bureaucrat is “primarily interested in rules and procedures for their own sake” (173). Just like the
transactional style, this essentially means that the leader gives directions and takes complete
responsibility for leading their team.
The final leadership style feeding into the Traditional Commander style is defined by
Cameron Boykins, Scott Campbell, Michelle Moore, and Shikha Nayyar as the ‘Command and
Control’ style. In “An Empirical Study of Leadership Styles” Boykin and team define a
Command and Control Leader as follows:
Useful in situations in which one is more familiar with what is needed to execute
an objective and the person/persons that one is working with are unfamiliar. The
Command and Control style is utilized mainly when there is a crisis or when
working with individuals who are not knowledgeable about a particular task. (2)
All of these styles have a common theme—a top-down approach where the leader truly
takes a management role and makes decisions for the team. As previously stated, for the sake of
this paper, this style of leadership will be referred to as Traditional Commander.

Democratic Developer
The Democratic Developer Leadership Style revolves around teamwork and consensus.
This leadership style encompasses other researchers’ types such as Inclusive, Democratic and
Developer (Bilimoria 1; Boykin, et al. 8; Limbare 173). In “Leadership Excellence,” Diana
Bilimoria refers to this leadership style as someone who “effectively leads diverse teams by

26

creating workplaces where all employees feel valued for who they are, and know their ideas
count” (1). This is a very democratic approach where the leadership asks for input from the team
in order to ensure that everyone’s voice is heard. This helps build team consensus. Similarly,
Boykin and team say that, “democratic leaders encourage creativity amongst the team, and
members of the team are also very engaged in the projects” (8).
Another take on this style is the Developer, as described by Sameer Limbare. This style
focuses on trusting people and developing them as individuals. They “assume that individual
members of a group who take part personally in the decision-making process will have greater
commitment to the objectives and goals” (173). Essentially, these researchers can see that a
Democratic Developer is the type of leader that thrives on social equality and implements
‘voting’ to ensure that the decisions made are what is best for everyone involved. This does not
necessarily mean that the Democratic Developer will stand back and let chaos ensue, but they
will take the opportunity to survey the affected parties and lead them toward a solution that has
the best outcome for everyone. As previously stated, for the sake of this paper, this style of
leadership will be referred to as Democratic Developer.

Relationship-Oriented Motivator
The Relationship-Oriented Motivator Style revolves around inspiration; this style
encompasses other researchers’ definitions such as Transformational, Relations-Oriented and
Executive (Murray and Chua 193; Boykins, et al. 4; Limbare 173). By definition,
Transformational Leadership involves “seeking to inspire and motivate their followers.

27

Transformational leaders are seen to be charismatic, behaving in what are generally seen as
admirable ways (idealized influence)” (Murray and Chua 193). Similarly, Boykin and team
define Relations-Oriented Leadership as focusing on motivating other team members. These
leaders are “focused on organizing, supporting and developing the people on their teams… by
encouraging participation and working as a team to execute goals” (4). Finally, Limbare defined
the Executive Leadership style as someone who is a “good motivator, sets high standards, treats
everyone differently and prefers team management” (173).
Together, these styles combined amount to leaders who are very relationship oriented and
always are looking to help develop their employees and teammates. Unlike the Traditional
Commander, these people are not primarily focused on giving orders, but instead on inspiring
people to engage with their strategic plan. Somewhat similar to the Democratic Developer, this
style of leader will likely use teams to help make decisions; however, unlike Democratic
Developers, this type of leader will spend more time developing their employees (personally and
professionally), while Democratic Developers will stay focused on objectives and goals.
The Relationship-Oriented Motivator is a very enthusiastic influencer in the office and is
likely to stand out as a mentor for many. As previously stated, for the sake of this paper, this style
of leadership will be referred to as Relationship-Oriented Motivator.

Hands-On Coach
The Hands-On Coaching Style revolves around training by way of example. This is a
combination of Hands-On and Coaching styles as defined by Cameron Boykins, Scott Campbell,
Michelle Moore, and Shikha Nayyar in The Journal Of Economic Development, Management,
IT, Finance & Marketing. Both of the styles involve a very hands-on approach of coaching. The

28

Hands-On style is described as “being able to fully assume the role of leadership, steering from
the front, and having the ability to work together with employees to achieve the objectives that
the company has in mind” (Boykins, et al. 5). This basically means that hands-on leaders are able
to coach and give lots of educational feedback and they are also able to do the actual work that
their employees do on a daily basis (which is what allows them to be so hands-on).
Coaching is essentially the same thing, though Boykins and her team add that coaches
generally look at things from a long-term standpoint. They also “provide advice and follow up
with them to see how progress has been made” (Boykins, et al. 6). Hands-On Coaching sounds
relatively similar to the Relationship-Oriented Motivator; however, the difference is in the level
of hands-on training that a Coaching Leader provides. For example, where a RelationshipOriented Motivator may primarily give encouragement and mentoring, a Hands-On Coach will
actually demonstrate action and the allow everyone to work alone on the project. As previously
stated, for the sake of this paper, this style of leadership will be referred to as Hands-On
Coaching.

Avoider
The Avoider is a ‘non-leadership’ leadership style. This style is essentially a hands-off
approach, which Murray and Chua define as “passive indifference to both their role and their
followers” (194). In fewer words, this leader avoids the hard decisions. This is not a leadership
style that is recommended or likely ever strived for by a leader; however, it could be one that is
fallen into by inexperienced or shy individuals placed into leadership positions. As previously
stated, for the sake of this paper, this style of leadership will be referred to as the Avoider Style.

29

For a quick reference of these leadership styles, the following chart provides a brief
description of each in one place.
Table 3: Defining Leadership Styles
Leadership Styles – Defined
Style

Focus

Attributes

Traditional
Commander

Control

Top-down approach, hand down direct
orders to employees

Democratic Developer

Teamwork and Consensus

Get everyone involved in decision
making, thrives on social equality

Relationship-Oriented
Motivator

Motivational

Spend the majority of time developing
their people, encouraging participation

Hands-On Coach

Coaching

Coach employees by demonstration,
educate, feedback

Avoider

Hands-Off

Passive indifference, avoids hard
decisions

Each of the leadership styles described in Table 3 encompass traits and behaviors that
leaders lean on to determine the way they will manage and lead their employees; but none of
these leaders would be able to lead without communication. As stated by Angelique BakkerPieper and Reinout E. DeVries in “The Incremental Validity of Communication Styles Over
Personality Traits for Leader Outcomes,” “Leadership is a highly social phenomenon, and
communication is an essential activity for a leader (2). Think of it this way, whether a Hands-On
Coach is demonstrating a more efficient way to work or an Avoider is dodging confrontation,
every style of leader must communicate—even if that communication is completely passive, it
still sends a message and influences the type of leader someone is.

30

In fact, Bakker-Pieper and DeVries have published multiple academic papers that studied
the importance of communication in leadership. Communication is so important, they say, that it
is more relevant to leadership style than personality traits (11). The next section of this paper will
discuss the importance of communication and the different styles of communication that have
presented themselves.
--Communication in the Workplace
In addition to Bakker-Pieper and DeVries, there are dozens of scholars who believe that a
good leader spends the majority of their day communicating with their employees (Eccles and
Nohria; Kotter; Marrone; Mintzberg). Of course, communication is an extremely broad term. As
defined by DeVries et al, in the Journal of Communication Styles, a communication style is “the
characteristic way a person sends verbal, paraverbal, and nonverbal signals in social interactions
denoting (a) who he or she is or wants to (appear to) be, (b) how he or she tends to relate to
people with whom he or she interacts, and (c) in what way his or her messages should usually be
interpreted” (179). Like leadership, there are dozens of different researchers who have identified
a list of communication styles—and interestingly enough, many of those communication styles
carry similar parallels to the leadership styles previously identified.

Communication Style Inventory
The most common categorization of Communication Styles that has been identified by
researchers is called the Communication Style Inventory (CSI). This inventory “operationalizes

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six communication style dimensions: expressiveness, preciseness, verbal aggressiveness,
questioningness, emotionality, and impression manipulativeness” (Bakker-Pieper
and DeVries 3).
To break down each of these styles into more descriptive terms, expressiveness can be
explained as the leaders ability to verbally articulate their ideas; preciseness is how someone
structures their communication; verbal aggressiveness encompasses whether or not a person is
supportive or threatening in the way they communicate; questioningness is the amount of
curiosity a person has and how often they inquire deeper into a topic; emotionality can be
described as a person’s emotional stability and ability to control their emotions when they
communicate; and finally, impression manipulativeness could be better described as the level at
which someone uses deception in their line of communication (DeVries 510). The graph in
Appendix A shows researchers’ defining attributes of each communication style and will be
referenced throughout the next section.
As one can see, these communication styles tend to mimic behavior types that were
previously discussed. For example, the Traditional Commander leadership style was defined as
someone who did not give sappy motivational speeches, but instead handed down specific orders
to their employees; this type of leader would likely have a precise and verbally aggressive
communication style. The chart on the following page demonstrates this author’s theoretical
construal of a Communication Style Inventory for each of the five leadership styles previously
described.
This pairing of communication style and leadership style will ultimately facilitate the
pairing of generations with leadership styles. In simpler terms, if generation affects

32

communication style and communication style affects leadership style, then, generation affects
leadership style. If this logic was a math problem it might look like this:
Generation = Communication style & Communication style = Leadership style
Generation = Leadership style

Table 5: Communication Style Inventory for Five Leadership Styles
Expressivene
ss

Precisenes
s

Verbal
Aggressivene
ss

Questioningne
ss

Emotionalit
y

Impression
Manipulativene
ss

Traditional
Commande
r

Low

High

High

Low

Low

Low

Democratic
Developer

Mid

Mid

Low

High

Mid

High

Relationshi
p-Oriented
Motivator

High

Mid

Low

High

High

High

Hands-On
Coach

High

Mid

Low

High

High

Mid

Avoider

Mid

Low

Mid

Low

High

Mid

Of course, this is not a math problem and so one cannot use finite terms, such as “equal
to,” because in the worlds of human interaction, personality type, and communication, there are
multiple facets that affect results. Therefore, it is important to remember that even if this paper
proves generation to be influential of leadership style, it cannot be assumed that generational
cohort is the solitary influencer of leadership style. Nonetheless, the following
pages will dig into six communication styles from the CSI and explain how each leader ranks
in those attitudes.

Expressiveness

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As you saw in Appendix A, the communication quality of expressiveness is defined as
talkativeness, informality, humor, and conversational dominance (DeVries et al 513). Let us
discuss the reasoning behind ranking each of the leadership styles with High, Mid, or
Low in Table 5.
First, this author will discuss Traditional Commanders. As you’ll remember, in the Indian
Journal Of Industrial Relations Sameer Limbare described Traditional Commander leaders as
“directing orders to their associates and usually keeping decisions and controls to themselves
because they have assumed full responsibility for decision-making” (173). For that reason,
expressiveness is an area that Traditional Commanders are likely unskilled in. As previously
mentioned, the Traditional Commander leadership style is one with a top-down approach where
the leader truly takes a management role and makes the majority of the decisions for the team.
They make decisions and hand those decisions down to their employees. This style would
increase their conversational dominance, but they remain low in all other areas of expressiveness
as they would stray away from treating their employees with informality or approaching
communication with talkative humor.
Democratic Developers were ranked as mid for expressiveness, mainly because of the
talkativeness descriptor. As one will remember, Democratic Developers highly value consensus
and therefore are more likely to engage their employees regularly to ensure agreement. That
being said, Democratic Developers are still very interested in developing their employees and
leading the team successfully (Limbare 173).
Relationship-Oriented Motivators and Hands-On Coaches both ranked high on the scale
of expressiveness; as one may assume, this is because of the informality that these team-oriented
leaders share with their employees. Relationship-Oriented Motivators “seek to inspire and

34

motivate their followers [. . .] and are seen to be charismatic” (Murray and Chua 193). Hands-On
Coaches give lots of educational feedback and generally stay closely in touch with their
employees (Boykins, et al. 5).
Finally, the Avoider ranked mid in the department of expressiveness. The Avoider tends
to be passive and uninterested in leading, which makes them unlikely to exert dominance in their
conversations; however, they are likely to talk and joke with their employees on a regular basis.
That said, unlike the Relationship-Oriented Motivator or Hands-On Coach, the Avoider would
chat with their employees for the purpose of building friendships, not for the purpose of
developing them as employees.

Preciseness
As one can see in Table 4, Preciseness is described as structuredness, thoughtfulness,
substantiveness, and conciseness (DeVries et al 513). In terms of Traditional Commanders,
preciseness is something that they have a high aptitude in; this is especially true in terms of
structuredness and conciseness, or the ability to clearly and quickly express themselves. One
example would be this description of Peg Witte, former CEO of Royal Oak Mines, clearly a
Traditional Commander:
[Witte] examines every purchase order. In fact, she demands daily minutiae in the
form of reports and forms from managers in the mines. She insists on a barrage of
top-down sign-offs and reviews for expenditures. She abruptly finishes the
sentences of managers who are presenting reports. And she engenders a
culture
where, during a meeting with institutional investors, “her
management team kept
looking nervously at her to see if the few things
they did say met with her
approval.” (42)
Democratic Developers have a mid-level ranking in terms of Preciseness. While they are
obviously thoughtful and structured, the democratic style is very open to consensus, which does

35

not always lend itself to substantiveness and conciseness, which would have leaders keeping
communication short and focused. Democratic Developers need to be strong communicators in
terms of thoughtfulness (a portion of the preciseness CSI factor). As stated in the Journal of
Individual Psychology, “for shared decision making and problem solving with mutual respect to
be enacted, members of the group need to communicate effectively. Sharing of information
requires judgment of what is important and when and how to share it” (Ferguson 435). This
emphasizes the Democratic Developer’s need for structure and thoughtfulness.
Relationship-Oriented Motivators also rank mid on the scale of preciseness, however, for
different reasons. Where Democratic Developers are strong in conciseness and structure,
Relationship-Oriented Motivators are really only strong in thoughtfulness. The other three
defining areas of Preciseness (substantiveness, conciseness, and structuredness) are less
important to these leaders. As described in Communication Research, those with high
structuredness scores always think out their stories and are logical; high scorers in
substantiveness rarely talk about superficial matters; and high scores in conciseness only use a
few words to explain things (DeVries et al 524). Compare that to a Relationship Oriented
Motivator, who “strives to elevate the needs of their followers which are congruent with their
own goals and objectives through charisma, intellectual stimulation and individual
consideration” (Murphy 131). Someone focused on leading each one of his or her employees
individually and building relationships with them is not likely to cut conversations short or limit
relationship-building conversations.
Hands-On Coaches also have a mid-level ranking on the preciseness scale for similar
reasons. As stated in the International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching & Mentoring, “to
acquire and reveal necessary and important information, communication is fundamental; the

36

conversation is therefore at the heart of the coaching process” (Moen and Federici 3). Like the
Relationship-Oriented Motivator, Coaches are thoughtful, but not very concise or substantive. In
the area of preciseness, the main difference between Hands-On Coaches and RelationshipOriented Motivators is in their structuredness. While Relationship-Oriented Motivators stay
away from over-structuring their communication, Hands-On Coaches lead with the help of
demonstrations; therefore, they sometimes need to structure their communication in order to
properly teach their employees.
Finally, the Avoider has a low score in terms of preciseness. As a leader who prefers to
hide from most management responsibilities and limit authoritative communication, preciseness
is not something at which they excel.

Verbal Aggressiveness
The third communication style is Verbal Aggressiveness, and according to DeVries and
his team, this style is characterized by angriness, authoritarianism, derogatoriness, and
nonsupportiveness (513). This is perceptibly a very high-ranking communication tactic for
Traditional Commanders looking to maintain control with their employees. Bill Quirke explains
in Communication World, a directive focused communicator such as this “provides a clear sense
of direction, and his or her key message is ‘just do it’” (48). This is extremely authoritarian and
could be perceived as derogatory, angry, and nonsupportive, as well.
Democratic Developers, Relationship Oriented Motivators, and Hands On Coaches all
scored in the low range for verbal aggressiveness. These three leaders focus on communication
and teamwork, and therefore stray away from communication that is overly authoritarian,

37

especially to the point of aggression. As Nadine Page and Erik de Hann state
in The Psychologist:

different
what will
particular

Coaches are much less interested in making dogmatic statements about one view
or another. They want to use whatever works, borrowing ideas from
approaches, like sports coaching for example. They ask themselves
work for this particular person, at this particular moment, with this
question. (582)

Essentially, leaders who focus on building and developing other people try not to become
demanding and irritable with their employees, because they feel that each person deserves a say
(Democratic Developer), a positive relationship (Relationship-Oriented Motivator), or a personal
instructor (Hands-On Coach).
The Avoider received a mid-level score on the point of Verbal Aggressiveness, not
because they would ever actually speak harshly to their employees, but because their lack of
leadership may come across as nonsupportiveness, which is a facet of Verbal Aggressiveness. For
example, if an Avoider’s employee is trying to get meeting time with them to discuss an issue, it
is highly likely that the Avoider would steer clear of this meeting; this could easily come across
as nonsupportiveness, which is defined by DeVries as someone who doesn’t listen well, shows
lack of understanding for people’s problems, avoids communication, and treats people with
disrespect (525).

Questioningness
The fourth type of communication is a tactic called Questioningness and is characterized
by unconventionality, philosophicalness, inquisitiveness, and argumentativeness (DeVries et al
513). The Traditional Commander has a low score when it comes to Questioningness. As
previously mentioned, the Traditional Commander has “no confidence in others” (Limbare 173);

38

therefore, it is improbable that they would enter into philosophical conversations, ask about
someone’s background, or get into debates with their employees. Instead, they opt to stick to
convention and give directions, without asking for input.
As previously mentioned, the Democratic Developer leader will not stand back and let
chaos ensue, but they will take the opportunity to survey the affected parties and lead them
toward a solution that has the best outcome for everyone. This makes them naturally inquisitive
and philosophical; plus, with an “exciting, but undefined, vision of the future” they are more
inclined to take an unconventional approach (Limbare 173). For those reasons, Democratic
Developers are ranked high in the area of Questioningness.
The Relationship-Oriented Motivator is also ranked highly on the Questioningness scale.
This leadership style focuses on developing their people both personally and professionally,
which means that Questioningness is likely one of their strongest communication tactics. They
are more than willing to take unconventional approaches and are driven by their desire to build
relationships (which caters directly to the facet of inquisitiveness).
The Hands-On Coach shows similarities to the Relationship-Oriented Motivator and
ranks high in Questioningness. As a refresher, the Hands-On Coach is able to advise and
give lots of educational feedback and they are also able to do the actual work that their
employees do on a daily basis. This could make them less unconventional, because they
have a prior bias toward the way that they prefer to complete tasks; however, they are still
focused on communicating and developing their employees, which makes them
inquisitive and philosophical.

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Finally, the Avoider is low on Questioningness. They make it a point not to shake things
up or ask too many questions; for fear that they will be asked to do or answer something they are
not comfortable with (Murray and Chua 194).

Emotionality
The second to last communication tactic is Emotionality, which is encompassed and
characterized by sentimentality, worrisomeness, tension, and defensiveness (DeVries et al 513).
This is another area that Traditional Commanders struggle with and rank low in. Examples of
Emotionality that DeVries and his team give include “people being able to tell that their leader is
Emotionally touched by some topics of conversation; when worried about something, the leader
finds it hard to talk about anything else; the leader tends to talk about his or her concerns a lot;
people can tell when the leader feels anxious; etc” (DeVries et al 527).
Traditional Commanders are focused on directing and not at all on building relationships.
They are often “unpleasant and interested only in the immediate job at hand. These leaders direct
orders to their associates and usually keep decisions and controls to themselves” (Limbare 173).
With this type of top-down approach and desire for complete control, Traditional Commanders
are the least likely to show emotion to their employees.
Democratic Developers fall into the middle range when it comes to Emotionality. This is
because they are open to emotionality in the sense of building trust so that their employees feel
comfortable offering their opinions (sentimentality); however, they are not as open to showing
their vulnerabilities or as focused on creating strong relationships like the Relationship-Oriented
Manager and Hands-On Coach are. Both of those leaders rank high in terms of Emotionality.
These relationship-oriented leaders “motivate and energize staff to pursue mutual goals,

40

share visions and ensconce an empowering culture, where personal values and reciprocated
respect are fundamental principles” (Murphy 131). This enhances their Emotionality facet
because it encompasses their openness with their employees. Both of these leaders develop
relationships and work closely, sometimes one-on-one, with their employees—this makes them
more susceptible to showing their worry, tension, and other emotions.
The Avoider is also high ranking in terms of Emotionality, for reasons different than the
previous two leaders. The Avoider shows tension and worry due to an inability to lead. This
likely is represented largely through nonverbal communication. Michael Barrier gives an
example of such nonverbal emotionality in Nation’s Business, “to avoid interaction, the boss
would overtly withhold his attention from the group by tearing up a Styrofoam coffee cup and
placing the pieces on the table in front of the group” (41). This avoidance could easily
demonstrate qualities like worry, tension, and defensiveness, which is why the Avoider ranks
high on the Emotionality scale.

Impression Manipulativeness
Finally, Impression Manipulativeness is a communication style encompassed by
ingratiation, charm, inscrutableness, and concealingness (DeVries 513). As the Communication
Style Inventory describes, Impression Manipulativeness is often identified as false flattery, skill
at hiding true feelings, hiding or withholding information, etc (DeVries 528). This is a skill that
Traditional Commanders likely do not find imperative to their work. This may be surprising to
some, especially because Traditional Commanders are skilled at withholding information,
however in terms of communication style, Impression Manipulativeness is more about
encouraging another person to like you, despite your true feelings. Traditional Commanders

41

tend not to care about what their employees think of them and therefore do not need to
manipulate the their appearance to be accepted. Instead, they simply say what they are thinking,
give directions, and if it hurts another person’s feelings, that is a consequence with which they
are willing to accept.
Democratic Developers and Relationship-Oriented Motivators ranked high in Impression
Manipulativeness; this is because they both are highly focused on positively influencing and
developing their employees. Democratic Developers thrive on social equality and work hard to
ensure that decisions made are best for everyone involved. In order to make their team feel that
their voices are heard, it is sometimes necessary for Democratic Developers to be skilled at
hiding their opinions (especially when those opinions do not match those of their employees).
This is similar to the Relationship-Oriented Motivators who also take extra time to “listen to and
nurture their employees’ ideas, and stimulate their creativity” (Murray and Chua 193). These
‘manipulations’ are often “regarded as important for smooth and polite conversation” (DeVries et
al 522).
Hands-On Coaches ranked mid on this scale because while they do take time to coach
their employees, they are also not as inclined to hand hold—mainly because they are also
completing the work that their employees are doing. Plus, sometimes for a coach to be effective
they must be honest and open about where a person went wrong; therefore, they are ranked in the
middle range of this area.
Finally, the Avoider also falls into the middle range when it comes to Impression
Manipulation. Although they are often desperately trying to conceal their worries and unease,
they are not particularly skilled at charming their employees or influencing the way people think.

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Communication Methods
Not only are there many verbal communication styles, but there are also many methods
of communication in today’s technologically driven society—from email to Facebook to text
messaging. As communication philosopher and theorist Marshall McLuhan once said, “The
medium is the message” (McLuhan). McLuhan simply meant that the method of communication
used is just as impactful as the message itself. The following section will delve into the types of
communication that leaders use to communicate with their employees; this is especially
important because of the amount of time that workers spend communicating. According to Heljä
Franssila in Knowledge and Process Management, “Workers spend the biggest share of their
working time in communication, on average, five and a half hours per day” (185).
These hours of communication are executed in multiple different methods; email being
the most frequent (as of 2013). In fact, according to Franssila email “was accessed, on average,
17 times per day” (185). Although email is prolific, there are a dozen other ways that workers
communicate each day—and those ways are constantly changing, as well. As Garima Bardia said
in the article “Smart Communication:”

and
corporate

In earlier days, businesses were all about sending memos, letters, drafts and so on.
Today the same is being performed through videoconferencing, e-mailing and
Voice over IP, etc. In the Internet era, there are various social networking
media websites available that are becoming extremely popular in the
circles nowadays. (31)

Of course, one cannot forget traditional methods either, such as face-to-face
conversations, phone calls, and so on.
Essentially, leaders have an abundance of options when it comes to deciding their method
of communication. It starts with a decision of whether or not to communicate verbally or
nonverbally. If verbal communication is chosen, then one must decide whether to communicate

43

in person, via video chat, or over the phone. If nonverbal is chosen, the options deepen, as the
worker must choose between physical letters, emails, social networks such as Facebook and
Twitter, online chat systems, and so on.

Motivation for Communication
There are many facets that influence a person’s decision about which method of
communication should be used; many people argue that a person’s motivation is highly
influential on the selection process. According to Narissara Maria Punyanunt-Carter, “there are
six distinct factors of communication motives: control, relaxation, escape, inclusion, affection,
and pleasure” (42). These are deep, interpersonal motives for communication and the first layer
of motivation each person must go through before choosing their line of communication. Further
explanation of these six motives is as follows:

other
to the
for
and

Control motives are means to gain conformity. Relaxation motives are ways to
rest or relax. Escape motives are reasons for diversion or avoidance of
activities. Inclusion motives are ways to express emotion and to feel a link
other person. Affection motives are ways to express one’s love and caring
another person. Pleasure motives are ways to communicate for enjoyment
excitement. (Punyanunt-Carter 42)
Thinking back to the Communication Style Inventory—verbal aggressiveness often

includes derogatoriness, which can include making employees look like fools or embarrassing
someone in front of a crowd (DeVries et al 525). The motive behind derogatoriness is likely for
control. Another example would be the communication style of emotionality, which can include
sentimentality. When someone with a strong level of sentimentality is worried about something,
they often find it difficult to talk about anything else (DeVries et al 526). The motive behind
sentimentality could be relaxation, escape, or inclusion. These are a just a few examples of how
the motives of communication affect the styles in the Communication Style Inventory.

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Although motivation can certainly influence selected communication style, this author
believes that the generation one is born into can have just as large of an influence on
communication preferences, which is why the following section will focus on the differences
between each generation, both their communication preferences and their personality types.
Having already demonstrated how communication style can be related to leadership style,
it is necessary to demonstrate how generations are related to communication styles and method
preferences; by doing so, leadership style can be transitively linked to generation.
--Generations in the Workplace
As one may remember from the introduction to this paper, American businesses are
facing the reality that multiple generations are currently serving together in the workplace.
Millennials, Generation Xers, Baby Boomers, and Traditionalists are all working together;
unfortunately, this can create issues, because age-diverse workplaces are saturated with
conflicting values, ambitions, mindsets, demographics, and views. In fact, according to the
authors of Generations at Work: Managing the Clash of Boomers, GenXers, and GenYers in the
Workplace, “At no time in our history have so many and such different generations with such
diversity been asked to work together shoulder to shoulder, side by side, cubicle to cubicle”
(Zemke, Raines, and Filipczak 11).
Of course, the workplace has always had multiple generations working together;
however, as Zemke, Raines, and Filipczak state, “by and large, those generations were
sequestered from each other by organizational stratification and the structural topography of a
manufacturing-oriented economy” (11). This is no longer the case. American workplaces today

45

are more fluid and horizontal, with mixed generations working together and age being less
determinant of rank.
For that reason, members of all generations need to understand how their generation and
the generations they work with operate, communication, and lead. The following section of this
paper will discuss each of the four main generations’ work styles and communication
preferences; by identifying their communication preferences and overarching personality traits,
one will easily be able to identify each generation’s leadership styles, therefore proving that
generation does have a strong impact on leadership style. The first generation discussed will be
the Millennial generation, which was defined in the operational definitions section of this paper
as those born between the years 1981 and 2000.

Millennials – (1981-2000)
In the operational definitions, Millennials were briefly described to be confident, upbeat,
and self-expressive. They also are often more liberal, more educated, more ethically and
culturally diverse, and less religious (Hartman and McCambridge 26). Before discussing their
communication styles and leadership tendencies, it is important to dig into their personalities a
bit deeper, in order to gain better understanding on where these traits come from. According to
Ron Zemke in his book Generations at Work: Managing the Class of Boomers, GenXers, and
GenYers in the Workplace, “Millennials core values are optimism, civic duty, confidence,
achievement, sociability, and diversity” (122). Zemke also agreed with Hartman and
McCambridge that Millennials are more racially and ethically diverse, which could be in part
due to the fact that their generation is the largest since that of the Boomers. In fact, “Millennials

46

now comprise a third of the population in the United States and nearly a quarter of the world
population” (Zemke 122).
This generation’s optimism often raises the question of ‘why’ with older generations.
However, by looking deeper into Gen Y’s past, it becomes more clear why these young adults act
the way they do. According to Zemke, “they were shaped by their times. The 1990s and 2000s
presented a strong focus on children, which meant that kids were raised knowing they were
wanted, sought-after, needed and indispensable” (130). As readers will see in the section on
Generation X, this is quite the divergence from the previous generation who were the first
generation with parents that “took pills to prevent or at least delay children” (Zemke 123). In
fact, Gen Xers are often called “latchkey kids” because their parents both worked, leaving
children at home to fend for themselves more often than ever before.
With the Millennial generation, “Kids become all the rage” (Zemke 124) and even the
busiest parents focused much of their time on managing their children’s lives. It is likely that part
of this focus on children also stemmed from the increase in terrorism in the United States, which
is something that most previous generations did not have to experience.

their
had
bike to

Two and three decades before, kids had “hung out” and played with buddies on
the vacant lot on the corner, or they had taken off for parts unknown on
bicycles. When Millennials were kids, there was no vacant lot, and if there
been, it wouldn’t have been deemed safe by their parents. Riding your
parts unknown simply wasn’t a good idea anymore. (Zemke 125)
Because of this change in risk, parents tried diligently to protect their children from the

world’s troubles and their protectiveness trickled into every aspect of children’s lives. “Protective
parents paced alongside the soccer field, stood in the wings at dance recitals, and stayed up to the
wee hours quizzing their children on possible spelling bee words” (Zemke 128). This increase in

47

time spent together developed stronger, friendlier relationships between children and parents,
which developed into a positive interpretation of the world and their future.
In addition to optimism, Millennials were also strongly influenced by technology; in fact,
they are the first generation to be raised in a digital world. According to a 2009 study in the
Journal of Communication, “Ninety percent of college students own a computer, 65% have
broadband connection, 77% own a cell phone, and 41% can use their cell phone to access the
Internet. Students so routinely use technology in their day-to-day lives, it has become
indispensable” (Pearson 45). Not only are these numbers likely even higher five years later, but
also they show just how integrated technology is into Millennials’ lives.
This integration has an enormous effect on Generation Y’s personality style for two main
reasons. First, Millennials have always had the ability to communicate globally. As Zemke
pointed out, “It was not uncommon for Millennials to have pen pals in Singapore and Senegal as
children. They learned to see the world as global, connected, and ‘round the clock” (129). Also,
as Lynn Lancaster and David Stillman state in When Generations Collide, “constant technology
use blurred the lines between fantasy and reality” (28). For this reason, Millennials are both well
informed and idealistic because they have the ability to tap the wisdom and knowledge of,
essentially, the entire world (both alive and deceased) at the click of a button.
The digital age has obviously had an enormous impact on Millennials’ personalities; it
has also had a huge impact on their communication style, both personally and professionally. In a
previous section, many different methods of communication were discussed, from face-to-face
talking to text messaging; although every generation uses a broad range of communication
methods, there are certainly methods that each generation favors. In the chart below, published in

48

2012, one can see how university students rank each method of communication preferred when
communicating at work and socially.
Table 6: Preferred Communication Method in Students

Source: Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

As one can see, there are some similarities and differences. Interestingly enough, students
claimed to prefer face-to-face communication in all situations; however, where they said that
they preferred to email or call about work, they opted to call and text for social situations.
Millennials also ranked Facebook as their fourth preferred way to communicate socially, but
ranked it very last when used for work and school communications (Robinson 109). Robinson
felt that her study identified some of the following implications:
Email might be viewed more positively for work/school communication because
of its practical use in sharing files necessary for completing assignments.
Another
possibility is that students prefer email because it allows students
and instructors
to communicate without infringing on communication
methods more preferred for
social purposes. This would be consistent with the Pew
findings that [young
adults] like to use email for communication with
institutions and adults. Also, for
work/school, sixth placed paper was viewed
as preferable to Facebook, suggesting
students have a strong aversion to using
Facebook for work/school. (110)
These findings essentially imply that Millennials will likely choose texting and
Facebooking as a method of communication when reaching out to their friends, but will opt to

49

email or talk in person when at work. These findings match well with those of Pearson, Carmon,
Tobola, and Fowler who found that, “Millennials tended to rely on cell phones for interpersonal
communication” (46). In fact, they also found that Millennials with “text-capable cellular
phones sent an average of 1,742 text messages per month, compared to making only 231
voice calls” (45).
Many news outlets and older generations have claimed that constant texting and
Facebooking has caused Millennials to lose productivity; however, Millennials themselves do
not agree. According to an article titled “Does Mobile Technology Help or Hinder Meeting
Productivity,” authors Kristen Dietel, Scott McMann, Susan Bosco, and Diane Harvey surveyed
Gen Yers and found that they find texting, emailing, and web surfing to increase their
productivity and efficiency (1279). One respondent to their survey stated, “The Blackberry is a
great tool for getting information, setting schedules, making appointments and getting more
done. It’s increased the pace to get more done; it’s doubled the pace. It gives me more
opportunities to get business” (1279). In fact, some Millennials felt that it would be risky not to
respond to emails and texts promptly (1278). This is a very different vantage point than that of
older generations and leads one to wonder what other areas of business Millennials differ on and
how those differences ultimately affect a GenYers’ leadership style.
As previously mentioned, Millennials are optimistic, tech savvy, and good at
multitasking. On the job, these things can be assets. Zemke also noted that their “collective
action, tenacity, heroic spirit, and ability to change” (132) were strong advantages as well. In
addition to these assets, Edward Murphy noted that “Generation Y managers more highly valued
a sense of accomplishment, a world at peace, equality, national security, self-respect and true
friendship and the instrumental values of being broadminded, independent, loving, and self-

50

controlled” (39). These traits will ultimately help identify the defining factors of the millennial
generation and place them into a leadership category, especially by breaking down the causes of
the traits and comparing them to the leadership styles identified previously.
The first leadership trait that Millennials demonstrate is that of collaboration.
“Millennials were taught to work collaboratively and solve problems as a group” (Zemke 132).
This is likely because participation-oriented parents raised them. In Lynn Lancaster and David
Stillman’s book When Generations Collide the following example was given:
Millennials have been included in major family decisions since they were old
enough to point. From deciding where to go on vacation to which
computer to
buy, Millennials have always been part of the day-to-day
negotiation of their
home lives. They’ll bring this quality with them in spades
when they show up to
work, which means they’ll be tough to bully
because they’re used to sticking up
for themselves, but also means they’ll be
able to contribute and collaborate right
from the get-go. (31)
In addition to collaboration, Millennials have been trained to multitask—not only because
of their technological mindset, but also because of how busy they have been since birth. As
Zemke points out in his book, “Millennials were the busiest generation of children we’ve ever
seen. Parents and teachers micromanaged their lives, leaving them with little free time. They
were shuttled from football practice to violin lessons to math tutoring to ballet classes” (125). In
fact, they “fully expect to work more than 40 hours a week in order to achieve the lifestyle they
want” (138). This makes them adept at juggling multiple work responsibilities.
Of course, there are also traits that could be liabilities for Millennials and their
employers. Zemke lists those liabilities as “need for supervision and structure, demand for
constant feedback, helicopter parents, and family events trump work” (137). Additionally he
noted that Millennials often feel pressure to “get it right the first time and do not allot time for

51

trial and error” (141). This need for perfection likely comes from the amount of competition that
the seventy six million Millennials grew up around.
Another interesting trait of Millennials that is often listed as both a liability and an asset
is their desire to work in a transparent organization. Millennials have grown up with a world of
information at their fingertips, and so working for a company that keeps information under wraps
is frustrating for them. According to Jan Ferri-Reed in her article “Millennializing the
Workplace,” “Members of Generation Y prefer to work in a transparent organization in which the
corporation’s mission, values, operations, problems, and conflicts are shared with all employees”
(13).
More than just wanting to know their company’s mission and values, they also want to
have an impact on that vision and be employed by a business that provides them with meaningful
work (Lancaster and Stillman 86). For that and other reasons, “futurists predict that Millennials
will experience as many as ten career changes in their lifetimes” (Lancaster and Stillman 66). As
previously mentioned, Millennials have been told for their entire lives that they can be whatever
they want, that they are wanted, and that they are needed; for that reason, they are more than
willing to leave a job that doesn’t feel fulfilling or fit their wants and needs.
Last but not least, a Gallup poll found that “Millennials desire a work-life balance that
will allow them to balance play with work, and they prioritize close, personal relationships over
career” (Myers and Sadaghiani 228). It is not surprising that Millennials demand balance since
they grew up juggling multiple activities, school, and social lives.
Looking at all of this information, one can begin to see qualities and preferences
emerging that are parallel to that of previously detailed leadership and communication styles;
particularly that of the Democratic Developer Leadership Style that revolves around teamwork

52

and consensus. One of the first things mentioned in this paper about Democratic Developers was
that these leaders are especially “effective at leading diverse teams by creating workplaces where
all employees feel valued for who they are, and know their ideas count” (Bilimoria 1). Thinking
back to the description of Millennials, one may remember that they are more comfortable with
diversity and prefer to work in groups (Lancaster and Stillman; Zemke). Plus, they prefer to
work in transparent organizations, which meshes well with the Democratic Developer style that
thrives on social equality and implements ‘voting’ to ensure that the decisions made are best for
everyone involved.
Think back to Table 5 on page 33 of this paper; research showed the Democratic
Developers ranked “low” in Verbal Aggressiveness and “high” in Questioningness. This matches
up with the millennial personality and communication style well.
Verbal Aggressiveness is characterized by angriness, authoritarianism, derogatoriness,
and nonsupportiveness (DeVries et al 513). As previously mentioned, Millennials are quite
optimistic and interested in working together with their peers; these traits certainly do not match
up well with those of a verbally aggressive individual. In fact as Zemke mentions, “They are able
to work together to define a clear collective mission and ambitious goals—and then send a text,
IM, or Facebook message to rally their peers” (132). These people believe in the future and feel
capable of changing the world, which makes them unlikely to be derogatory or unsupportive of
their employees, peers, or superiors (Zemke 131).
Questioningness, on the other hand, is another story. This trait is characterized by
unconventionality, philosophicalness, inquisitiveness, and argumentativeness (DeVries et al 513).
There is no generation that is quite as inquisitive as the Millennials; as Lynn Lancaster and David
Stillman note, “This is a generation that questions everything! They’ve had instant access to

53

information throughout their lives” (230). Their confidence also inspires argumentativeness and
unconventionality; they are not worried about pushing the envelope, because they have been a
part of making decisions since they were very young. Lancaster and Stillman give this example,
“It’s tough to tell a Millennial not to approach a senior vice president directly with a question
when he or she has had the ability to e-mail the president of the United States since first grade”
(231). Ultimately, Millennials see leadership as something that everyone should participate in
and that is why they are most likely to lead with a Democratic Developer style.

Generation X (1965-1980)
In the operational definitions, Gen Xers were briefly described to be latchkey kids with a
greater sense of economic uncertainty and skepticism, which has led them to be “individualistic,
risk-tolerant, self-reliant, and entrepreneurial” (Gentry, et al. 41). They also “grew up during a
time of epic political, economic, and social change, which made them wary of authority and
willing to question leadership” (Beekman 15). Before discussing their communication styles and
leadership tendencies, it is important to dig into their personalities a bit deeper, in order to gain
better understanding on where these traits come from.
Probably the two most defining traits of Generation X are their skepticism and selfcenteredness; and these are not traits that randomly appeared. As Zemke describes in his book,
Generations at Work, “Gen Xers were an attention-deprived, neglected group of kids. Parents
were absent without leave for two reasons. First, nearly half of their parents’ marriages ended in
divorce. Second, more and more women were going to work” (94). Not to mention that they
grew up in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, which was the first war that the United States had
ever lost (Zemke 91).

54

These childhood experiences caused Generation X to be forced into self-reliance and to
some extent a ‘survivor mentality’ that often makes them seem cynical and solitary (Zemke 90).
This survivor mentality, however, also makes Generation X very resourceful, independent, and
adaptable (McCready 13). “[They are] less concerned about having power over others, and
instead motivated by the desire to control their own lives” (McCready 16). This makes sense,
since they were forced to be on their own from a young age; it is difficult for them to worry too
much about others.
That being said, Generation X is not to be mistaken as a group of heartless individuals. In
fact, they “ranked their terminal values to be inner harmony, mature love, pleasure and salvation.
They also placed a higher value on courageous, forgiving, helpful, and polite coworkers”
(Murphy 39). Essentially, Generation Xers want balance. “Their parents devoted their lives to the
‘Religion of Work,’ spending evenings and weekends at the office. Their parents lived to work.
Xers simply want to work to live” (Zemke 95). This does not mean that they are bad employees
or poor leaders, it simply means that they are not interested in being tied to a desk for exactly 40
hours a week. In fact, according to Zemke, they regularly show up late and leave early. To a Gen
Xer, the important part is actually “getting the work done. If they do it at home, at odd hours, in
the car on the cell phone, or while telecommuting, they think that’s their business—not their
supervisors” (95). All of these points affect the GenXers leadership style.
As Lynne Lancaster and David Stillman mention, “freedom-loving Xers resent the
corporate compulsion to have meetings about meetings about meetings. They hate to be
micromanaged, and they struggle to understand why it’s so important for someone to see them if
they are getting the work done satisfactorily” (114). This love for freedom makes them
unimpressed with authority in a hierarchical relationship and more interested in informality

55

(Zemke 96). For these reasons, Generation Xers are more interested in casual days and working
from home than most other generations. In fact, since they are so interested in work-life balance,
Gen X leaders are very much inclined to “create a conglomeration of circles of people into
‘campus cultures,’ complete with recreational opportunities” (Zemke 109). They want to have
fun while they are working and be granted flexible hours.
Generation Xers also thrive on change and therefore are uniquely equipped to handle
today’s demanding customer base that expects their needs to be met instantly. “Generation Xers
are skilled at supporting and developing a responsive competent team of people who can change
direction or projects on a dime” (Zemke 108). Of course, Zemke reminds, that is generally only
true for Gen Xers who choose to be leaders:
They tend to be drawn to leadership for more altruistic reasons than the
generations before them. For Boomers, there’s a sort of a juju about
authority.
Although many of them distrust authority, they’ve lusted after
leadership roles,
seeking to prove their status, prestige, and general
worthiness by climbing the
ladder. Generation Xers don’t equate magic and
leadership. Those in leadership
roles tend to choose them, and be chosen for
them, because they are competent
and have good leadership skills. It’s a job,
just a job. (109)
Essentially, Gen Xers are different than other generations because not all of them strive to
climb the corporate ladder—many of them are perfectly satisfied with being worker bees for
their entire lives.
In terms of teamwork and communication, Generation Xers enjoy working on teams—
but small, manageable teams. They prefer to work alone and then “gather as a team from time to
time to check on progress and work out particularly gnarly problems as a group” (Zemke 111).
This flows into their communication style, as they are more prone to “avoid meetings and phone
calls, unless they personally see potential gain from the exchange” (“Communication Between
The Generations” 16). This group is also most prone to communication via email; they are not

56

opposed to face-to-face meetings or phone conversations, but they often do not see the
usefulness of these communication styles that require extra time and effort (Zemke 111).
Looking at all of this information, one can begin to see qualities and preferences
emerging that are parallel to that of previously detailed leadership and communication styles;
in particular that of the Hands-On Coach (and occasionally that of the Avoider). First, it is
obvious that some Gen Xers might fall into the Avoider leadership style if they are forced into a
leadership role that they do not want to be in. As just mentioned, Gen Xers generally need to
choose to be in leadership roles to be successful at it. So, if a Gen Xer is placed into
an unwanted leadership position it is understandable that they might avoid the responsibilities
of that office.
That being said, for those Gen Xers who do choose to be in a leadership role, they are
rather similar to that of the Hands-On Coach. This may seem curious at first, knowing that Gen
Xers are so individualistic; however, thinking back to the definition of the Hands On Coach, one
will remember that these leaders are “able to fully assume the role of leadership, steering from
the front, and having the ability to work together with employees to achieve the objectives that
the company has in mind” (Boykins, et al. 5). This basically means that hands-on leaders are able
to coach and give lots of educational feedback, but they are also able to do the actual work that
their employees do on a daily basis (which is what allows them to be so hands-on).
Surprisingly enough, this fits well with Gen Xers because of the hands-on style. To be
clear, hands-on should not be confused with handholding. Hands-on simply means that the leader
teaches by demonstration. This is different from handholding, which implies that the leader helps
team members with each step of the job. As one may remember, GenXers are very concerned
with making sure that their personal jobs are secure. That is one strong reason as to why they

57

would maintain the ability to complete the same work that their employees did. This is very
similar to the style of work that many Gen Xers are currently using in the workplace. Zemke
gave the following example of “community teams” that many Gen Xers prefer to work in:
Huge programming projects are often assembled by many teams of software
developers, each piece taken by a separate team that must coordinate its
programming to meet the goals of that distinct section of an
application. This
team system is a good match with the Gen X mindset.
Everyone works separately
to write code in solitude, and then they get together
as a team from time to time to
check on progress and work out particularly gnarly
problems as a group. The
leader is able to coach their team on how to work
and then each group works with
minor supervision. (Zemke 111)
Lancaster and Stillman also pointed out, “many Generation Xers learned via experiential
learning, want hands-on exposure to their company, and prefer active participation” (228). It
makes sense that they would be interested in leading in the ways that they prefer to be lead.
The communication styles of Gen Xers also match quite well with the communication
styles of Hands On Coaches who are low on the scale of Verbal Aggressiveness, mid on
Preciseness and Impression Manipulativeness, and high on Expressiveness, Questioningness, and
Emotionality.
As one may remember, Verbal Aggressiveness is something that Hands-On Coaches
ranked low in because they stray away from communication that is overly authoritarian,
especially to the point of aggression. As Nadine Page and Erik de Hann state in The
Psychologist, coaches are more interested in using whatever works and borrowing ideas from
other approaches (582). This is supported by research that states that Generation Xers are
demanding of flexibility and are “used to challenging and being challenged” (Zemke 108). For
that reason, they are not going to be authoritarian or derogatory toward their employees.
Another interesting comparison comes with the note that Hands-On Coaches ranked in
the middle of the scale for Impression Manipulativeness. One may recall that Impression

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Manipulativeness is about putting on a ‘front’ of sorts in order to maintain relationships. Because
a coach sometimes needs to be honest and open about where a person went wrong, this front
sometimes must come down. This plays well into the personality style of the Gen Xer who is
“usually rather honest (sometimes brutally so)” (Zemke 109).
All in all, Gen Xers see leadership as a way to increase their value at a company and pass
along their knowledge to a team in order to accomplish a goal; this is why they are most likely to
lead with a Hands-On Coaching style.

Baby Boomers (1945-1964)
As one will remember, in the operational definitions Baby Boomers were briefly
described to be optimistic, ambitious, and sometimes labeled as workaholics who place higher
value on work than family (Gentry et al. 40; Martin & Gentry 180). Before discussing their
communication styles and leadership tendencies, it is important to dig into their personalities a
bit deeper, in order to gain better understanding on where these traits come from.
The Baby Boomers were born right after World War II and were part of a phenomenal
reversal of the American population tendency. As Zemke stated poetically:
It was the beginning of the end of the country’s rural, agrarian life style. It was the
tumultuous and noisy dawn of a promising new day that carried their parents’
generation through blackouts, rationing, and the anxiety of separation. It
was the
beginning of a new world made possible by the sacrifices of
hundreds of
thousands in the annealing fires of the greatest, fiercest war
ever fought. (61)
Baby Boomers were born at an insane rate, making them the largest generation ever. Plus,
they were born in a time when infant death was decreasing and medicine was improving the
livelihoods of people across the country (Zemke 62). These babies were “healthier, more wanted,
doted on, and cared for—the first generation when child rearing was a hobby and a pleasure and

59

not an economic necessity and a biological inevitability” (Zemke 62). That may explain the
optimism of Baby Boomers, who grew up in positive times and during a time of economic
growth. In fact, that overall feeling of optimism tends to have a large impact on Baby Boomers
psyches. “They continue today to look at the world in terms of its infinite possibilities. The
planet was – and is – theirs to shape” (Zemke 65).
In addition to optimism, Boomers learned a lot about teamwork simply due to the fact
that there were so many of them. Boomers often had to share textbooks and desks as children,
because “the American infrastructure was forced to expand rapidly to accommodate the Baby
Boomers’ needs. New hospitals, elementary schools, and high schools needed to be built to fit
them” (Zemke 63).
Of course, the Boomers optimism did not make them perfect by any means. They pursued
personal gratification, often at the detriment of others; for example, “if a marriage wasn’t
working out, they dumped it and looked for another. If they didn’t like the job, they moved on”
(Zemke 65). This is likely because they were told from such a young age that they were so
special. They felt that they deserved the best, because their parents told them so.
Of course, there are so many Boomers that competition is another huge piece of the
puzzle. In fact, they were groomed from a young age to “do better than their parents did”
(Lancaster and Stillman 83). For that reason, many of them are still
in the workplace and plan to stay there for many, many years. They made work their lives,
to some extent, striving to be the best—no matter the cost.
Interestingly enough, Boomers do excel at teamwork, but likely for a reason that one
would not expect.
They prefer a workplace where there is a lot of room for relationships. They are
not, however, as good at sharing as they think they are. Some cynics

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suggest that
teamwork and participation became fashionable when Boomers
figured out that
the road to the top of their trade, craft or corporation was
already fully occupied.
So, in typical fashion, if they couldn’t reach the
goal—they changed it. If being
number one was out of reach, they reached
instead for leaderless work designs,
where everyone was equal and number one.
(76)
These personality styles and backgrounds have a strong influence on Baby Boomers and
their leadership style. Many researchers have found that Boomers have a “tendency toward a
collegial, consensual style of leadership” (Zemke 77). As previously mentioned, they prefer to
work in teams and share responsibilities of management, especially since they have been taught
to share and work in teams since childhood. On the flipside of teamwork, however, is the
Boomers need to prove themselves. “For a Boomer, competing with eighty million others, the
satisfaction of a job well done just wasn’t enough” (Lancaster and Stillman 82). These
competitive Boomers wanted more than just a pat on the back; they wanted to continue to be told
that they were special.
As David Stillman and Lynn Lancaster explain, “for Boomers, “face time” wasn’t
optional; it was a standard operating procedure. Boomers used face-to-face opportunities as
effective ways to boost a career. Leading meetings, making presentations, and dropping by the
boss’s office were accepted ways of showcasing skills” (113).
For that reason, many Boomers today dislike the way that younger generations use
mobile technology and digital communication to communicate. Boomers are “in touch with their
feelings and in love with communication” (Lancaster and Stillman 255), and so they do not care
for the styles of communication that remove the need for face-to-face meetings. In fact, “75
percent indicated that they agreed or strongly agreed that there should be policies governing the
use of mobile devices at meetings and even more agreed or strongly agreed that these policies

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should be instituted for the workplace as a whole” (Dietel 1281). Essentially, the Boomer
generation is used to life in the spotlight and wants to keep it that way.
Looking at all of this information, one can begin to see qualities and preferences
emerging that are parallel to that of previously detailed leadership and communication styles; in
particular that of the Relationship-Oriented Motivator Style. This style revolves around “leaders
who are seen to be charismatic and optimistic, behaving in what are generally seen as admirable
ways (idealized influence)” (Murray and Chua 193). Similarly, Boykin and team defined
Relationship-Oriented Motivators as leaders who are “focused on organizing, supporting and
developing the people on their teams… by encouraging participation and working as a team to
execute goals” (4).
Overall, the Relationship-Oriented Motivator is a very enthusiastic influencer in the
office and is likely to stand out as a mentor for many. There are many things in the Relationship
Oriented Motivator that run parallel to the Baby Boomer generation; perhaps the most obvious is
the desire to work in a team. Thinking back to the example of a software company in the Gen
Xer section, a Gen X leader would prefer to work separately and then come together to check
their work. If a Boomer set up the same project, they would “likely have the whole team sitting
in a shared space with no walls, so they could converse, collaborate, and generally do the project
like a “community team”” (Zemke 110).
The Relationship-Oriented Motivator is also someone who is enthusiastic and cares about
the people that they work with; this is a shared trait with Baby Boomers who are “genuinely
passionate and concerned about participation and spirit in the workplace, about bringing heart
and humanity to the office, and about creating a fair and level playing field for all” (Zemke 77).

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The identified communication styles of the Relationship-Oriented Motivator also
compare nicely with the traits of the Baby Boomer. As one will remember in Table 5 on page 33,
the Relationship Oriented Motivator ranks low in Verbal Aggressiveness, mid in Preciseness, and
high in Emotionality, Impression Manipulation, Questioningness and Expressiveness.
A high score in Expressiveness for Relationship-Oriented Motivators would insinuate that
they are talkative, informal, humorous, and conversationally dominant. These are great
descriptors for Baby Boomers, who were the first generation to really embrace “soft leadership
skills” (Zemke 77). The Boomers were interested in building relationships at work and so they
learned to embrace a more informal workplace, instead of a top-down approach.
In terms of Preciseness, it is sensible that a Baby Boomer with a Relationship-Oriented
Motivator leadership style would score in the middle range. As described in Communication
Research, those with high structuredness scores always think out their stories and are logical;
high scorers in substantiveness rarely talk about superficial matters; and high scores in
conciseness only use a few words to explain things (DeVries et al 524). Compare that to a
Relationship Oriented Motivator, who “strives to elevate the needs of their followers which are
congruent with their own goals and objectives through charisma, intellectual stimulation and
individual consideration” (Murphy 131). Essentially, Baby Boomers are interested in bringing
heart into the office and leveling the playing field, therefore they would not try to limit their
conversations or halt the building of relationships.
Truly, the only reason that Relationship-Oriented Motivators score in the middle range of
Preciseness is because of the aspect of thoughtfulness, or the ability to choose words wisely. This
is something that Baby Boomers excel at, likely out of necessity. Boomers can be very politically
charged in the workplace because of the level of competition in their generation. “At times,

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Boomers have to have well-honed rapport skills for self-protection or territorial improvement.
[…] As they climbed the corporate ladder, company policies taught them that stating and
restating your ‘needs’ was in favor” (Zemke 78).
These Relationship-Oriented Motivators also rank high in emotionality, which is also true
for Baby Boomers. “They motivate and energize staff to pursue mutual goals, share visions and
ensconce an empowering culture, where personal values and reciprocated respect are
fundamental principles” (Murphy 131). This enhances their emotionality facet because it
encompasses their openness with their employees.
One final aspect of Baby Boomers that must be noted is the fact that they are sometimes
“me-focused” individuals, which falls a bit outside of the Relationship-Oriented Motivation or
style. Boomers would be the first to tell someone that they are a motivator for their employees
and encourage teamwork; however, there is sometimes a feeling that they are only participating
in Relationship-Oriented Motivation because that is the way they think they should lead or
because that is the way they would like to be lead. As Zemke states, “Boomer managers
sometimes have a hard time actually practicing, day-in and day-out, the management style they
profess. Many, for instance, truly believe they are managing participatively, when, in fact, they’re
just giving it lip service” (77).
That said, Relationship-Oriented Motivators still seem to fit best in the Boomers’
wheelhouse, as they prefer to work on teams and share information openly with their peers.

Traditionalists (Born Before 1945)
As one will remember, in the operational definitions Traditionalists were briefly
described as very respectful of authority and understanding of hierarchy and defined structure.

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They grew up during the terrible economic climate of the Great Depression, which made them
savers who spend money only when necessary (Beekman 15). Before discussing their
communication styles and leadership tendencies, it is important to dig into their personalities a
bit deeper, in order to gain better understanding on where these traits come from.
The Traditionalist generation is often called ‘The Greatest Generation,’ because they
literally worked to build the foundation of America. They “shook off the Great Depression and
rejuvenated a failing economy. They fought a world war and hammered out a lasting peace. They
built a durable global infrastructure of high-ways, bridges, and dams” (Zemke 27). To overly
simplify it, Traditionalists are extraordinarily hard workers.
One defining aspect of Traditionalists personalities is that they “came of age as the world
transitioned from a primarily Agrarian way of life to a manufacturing mindset” (Zemke 35). That
means that instead of living off the land, the Traditionalist generation assembled resources on a
large scale. This inspired the Traditionalist generation to prefer consistency and uniformity.
“New technologies allowed people to become far more mobile; transportation quickly became
faster, less expensive, more available. And manufacturing offered consistency and conveniences
that made everyday life easier and more pleasant” (Zemke 35).
Traditionalists are also conformers who believe in law and order. They grew up during a
time when it was encouraged to “be a regular guy” and “do the right thing” (Zemke 37). Roles of
women and men were very clear during that time; women stayed home and raised children, men
worked. Neither gender was too fond of talking about feelings (Zemke 37). This traditional
mindset made them see things in black and white made them hell bent on doing the right thing.
Not only does this love of law and order carry over into their work life on a regular basis, but it is
perhaps the most important thing to consider when discussing Traditionalists work style.

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Traditionalists are rule followers. “They became accustomed to a military model of the
workplace and showed up when they were assigned to work. Anything other than that upset the
natural order and reflected a breakdown in discipline” (Lancaster and Stillman 110). To this
generation, there was a way that a career was carried out—a worker started at the bottom and
worked their way up. They invested years in climbing the ladder and often spent their entire lives
with one company. In fact, as Lynn Lancaster and David Stillman mention in their book,
“Traditionalists are the generation that invented the one-page resume. Job-hopping was almost
unheard of” (202). Instead of looking for a job that paid better or fit their skill set best,
Traditionalists forged ahead at whatever job they had, and many of them “viewed just having a
job as the best reward” (Lancaster and Stillman 78). This is not surprising since the Traditionalist
generation experienced every type of economic situation, including the Great Depression; they
were happy to work hard and sacrifice for the greater good (McCready 13).
It is also important to remember that the Traditionalists grew up during a time when
‘technology’ was nonexistent; instead this generation worked in a manufacturing economy that
was extremely formal, almost military-like. Although Traditionalists have adapted to the
workplace throughout the years, understanding the workplace they entered into helps to
demonstrate what they think the workplace should be like. The workplace of the 1950s was
highly dependent on rank and status, it was extremely structured and formal, and there “was a
clear distance between the boss and worker” (Zemke 48). This has influenced Traditionalists
leadership style directly, and one would not be surprised to hear that this generation almost
always leans toward the Traditional Commander leadership style. They “take charge, delegate,
and make the bulk of decisions themselves. If called on it, they may apologize—but not with
much enthusiasm” (Zemke 49). In their minds, there is nothing to apologize for. They worked

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hard to get to where they are in the company and there should be respect for them and their
position. This is how they were raised and those early experiences have a large impact on them
to this day.
As defined in the Traditional Commander section of this paper, these leaders encompass a
leadership style in which the leader leads and the workers work. They rarely give sappy,
motivational speeches or ask for advice—they hand down orders and expect their employees to
fulfill those requests in order to receive pay and health benefits. Not to mention that they feel pay
and benefits should be enough of a reward. In Zemke’s book Generations at Work, he gives an
example of how the workforce interacted when Traditionalists started their generation:
When people at more than one level are involved, conversations are limited to the
work issue at hand; it seems irregular to talk about one’s personal life,
especially
about intimate issues like problems with “Missus”—save over
several drinks off
premises—if then. Executives on the same level often
discuss their golf swings,
but that is about as far beyond the world of work as
things go. (48)
Essentially, Traditionalists are used to a top-down style of management and therefore it
continues to make sense to them today. Remember, “they are a generation of veterans who value
authority and discipline” (Lancaster and Stillman 255). This is not to say that the top-down
management style is a bad thing (although it may seem that way to younger generations who
prefer to be involved in decision making). As Lancaster and Stillman mention in their book
When Generations Collide, “In times of rapid change, these seasoned workers can provide muchneeded continuity for a corporate culture” (203). The Traditionalists continue to be a strong,
steady generation that should not be discounted.
The Traditionalist generation also has a unique communication style that influences
leadership style; this is not a surprise considering the fact that they grew up with a radio and not
much else in terms of media. They lived through the invention of television, computers, the

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Internet, and cell phones and have had to learn how to use each of these technologies—unlike the
Millennials who were born digital natives. For that reason, older individuals are much more
inclined to prefer face-to-face communication. An example of this is given in the article “Does
Mobile Technology Help or Hinder Productivity?”

that
and
look the
would

Older individuals are more likely to believe that using email is taking the easy
way out of interactions, but is not always the most efficient. They believe
time is saved by calling or meeting others face-to-face to answer questions
respond to issues. One survey respondent stated, “I often find that when I
other person in the eyes and ask them something I get far more than I ever
over e-mail.” (Dietel 1279)

Thinking back to the table on page 33 one recalls that Traditional Commanders are
ranked high in Preciseness and Verbal Aggressiveness and low in all other fields
(Expressiveness, Questioningness, Emotionality, and Impression Manipulation). These rankings
fit well with the Traditionalist generation, which provides more evidence that they are most
comparable to the Traditional Commander leadership style.
As one will remember (and can see in Appendix A), Expressiveness is encompassed by
talkativeness, humor, and informality. As stated in the Indian Journal Of Industrial Relations,
Traditional Commander leaders “direct orders to their associates and usually keeping decisions
and controls to themselves because they have assumed full responsibility for decision-making”
(173). This lines up perfectly with the Traditionalist generation with their top-down approach.
They make decisions and hand those decisions down to their employees, rarely having informal
communications (Zemke 48).
Preciseness, on the other hand, is a communication style that Traditionalists have a high
aptitude in; this is especially true in terms of structuredness and conciseness, or the ability to
clearly and quickly express oneself. As Zemke states, “command-and-control leadership and
executive decision-making allowed for simple, clear, and evident communication, without all the

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complexities of getting the masses involved” (49). Traditional Commanders like to take charge,
delegate, and move on—long drawn out communications and team input does not suit them.
Verbal Aggressiveness is another high-ranking communication tactic for Traditional
Commanders and therefore Traditionalists. As one likely remembers, Bill Quirke explained in
Communication World that a directive focused communicator “provides a clear sense of
direction, and his or her key message is ‘just do it’” (48). This is extremely authoritarian and
could be perceived as derogatory, angry, and nonsupportive, as well.
As for the final three communication styles, Questioningness, Emotionality, and
Impression Manipulativeness, the Traditional Commander scores low. Thinking back to the
comments about Traditionalists lack of relationship building with their coworkers, it is likely
improbable that they would enter into philosophical conversations, ask about someone’s
background, or get into debates with their employees. They aren’t likely to ask questions about
their employees’ lives or show emotions (DeVries et al 527).
As for Impression Manipulativeness, which is often identified as false flattery, skill at
hiding true feelings, hiding or withholding information, etc. (DeVries 528). This is a skill that
Traditionalists likely do not find imperative to their work. This may be surprising to some,
especially because Traditional Commanders are skilled at withholding information, however in
terms of communication style, Impression Manipulativeness is more about encouraging another
person to like you, despite your true feelings. Traditional Commanders (and therefore
Traditionalist leaders) tend not to care about what their employees think of them and therefore do
not need to manipulate their appearance to be accepted. Instead, they simply say what they are
thinking, give directions, and if it hurts another person’s feelings, that is a consequence they are
willing to accept.

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All in all, Traditionalists see leadership as something that should be clearly defined and
hierarchy-based, which is why they are most likely to lead with a Traditional Commander
leadership style.
---

RESULTS
After compiling all of the previous research, it is clear to see that leadership style is
indeed influenced by generational cohort. In the first section of this paper, five leadership styles
were identified and defined. Those leadership styles were Traditional Commander, Democratic
Developer, Relationship-Oriented Motivator, Hands-On Coach and Avoider. In the second
section of this paper these leadership styles were paired together with the six communication
styles, which were identified as the Communication Style Inventory (CSI). Communication style
was important to this research because of many researchers’ findings stating that communication
style is more indicative to leadership style than personality traits (DeVries et al). The final
section of this paper identified the four generations that are currently in the workplace to be
Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation Xers, and Millennials; these generations were then
defined and described in terms of leadership style and communication preferences in order to
clearly show that each generation has their own, distinct leadership style. Those styles are
detailed in the table on the next page:

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Table 7: Leadership Styles, Communication Styles, and Generational Cohorts
Expressivenes
s

Precisenes
s

Verbal
Aggressivenes
s

Questioningnes
s

Emotionalit
y

Impression
Manipulativenes
s

Traditional
Commander

Low

High

High

Low

Low

Low

Traditionalist

Democratic
Developer

Mid

Mid

Low

High

Mid

High

Millennial

Relationship
-Oriented
Motivator

High

Mid

Low

High

High

High

Baby
Boomer

Hands-On
Coach

High

Mid

Low

High

High

Mid

Generation
Xer

Avoider

Mid

Low

Mid

Low

High

Mid

Generation
Xer

IMPLICATIONS
Any executive knows that promoting collegiality and understanding in the workplace can
go a long way, which is why the implications of these findings are exceptional for future
managers and employees. By fully understanding each of the four generations, there are many
actionable items that managers and employees can take away from this research. In this section,
each generational cohort will be revisited briefly and suggestions for working with these
generations will be given based on the previous findings.

Traditionalists
Research has shown that members of the Traditionalist generation most often lead with a
Traditional Commander (or top-down) style. They are sometimes judged at first glance by other
generations as being difficult to talk to and often appear to be dictatorial, rigid, set in their ways,
narrow-minded, and technological dinosaurs (Zemke 52). However, working with a

71

Traditionalist can be extremely beneficial to younger generations when allowed. First, it is
important for younger generations to remember that Traditionalists have been around the block
more than once; although they may not have the ease or speed that Millennials have when using
Smart Boards and iPads, they do have “wisdom, talent, and skills that are unassailable” (Zemke
51). Not to mention a work ethic that cannot be beat.
Younger generations that are being managed by a Traditionalist should remember that this
older generation expects to take control and lead the team, and they likely will not remember to
share project details unless they are asked. That does not mean that they are not open to
teamwork and sharing; in fact, “they grew up working as a team, and they’re civic minded”
(Zemke 50). Therefore, younger generations should approach Traditionalists face-to-face if they
want to communicate with them most effectively and should be respectful of their experience
and tenure.
For younger generations who are managing Traditionalists, it is important to “keep in
mind the workplace they first joined; it laid the foundation for the way they think of work today”
(Zemke 51). Remembering this one tactic will likely help other generations approach
Traditionalists; in fact, as Zemke reminds:

their
Respect

It is worth learning from them about their background, experiences, and personal
needs. Go to lunch. Or breakfast. Or coffee. Break the paradigm, and earn
trust. It will take time. And don’t expect to learn everything at one sitting.
their experience. But don’t be intimidated by it. (52)

Baby Boomers
Research has shown that Baby Boomers often lead with a Relationship-Oriented
Motivator leadership style. They want to accomplish things in groups and work together to
complete projects. They are charismatic and optimistic and always think that they are right.

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These characteristics are what make them strong leaders, but can also make them difficult to
work with for people like Traditionalists and Gen Xers who prefer to work individually. That
said, Boomers are excellent workers who are service-oriented, driven, good at relationships, and
anxious to please (Zemke 74).
For employees who are being managed by a Boomer, it is helpful to remember that they
are all about “creating a fair and level playing field for all” (Zemke 77). They want to build
relationships with their employees and carry those relationships over into their personal lives. Of
course, this does not mean that every employee must be a best friend to their boss, but it should
not surprise an employee when their boss asks them to go out for drinks after work. Plus, this
desire to build relationships makes face-to-face communication a strong communication tactic
for their employees.
For anyone who is managing a Boomer, it is important to remember that they have been
told they are special since the day they were born and for that reason they want to be trusted with
projects. As Zemke states, “You can retain and motivate the best and brightest members of the
Boomer generation by providing them with challenging work and developmental experiences—
and giving them gold stars for their good work, even if it was a team effort” (Zemke 81). They
want to be treated as a friendly equal and for that reason it is recommended that managers “ask
permission every step of the way. For example, ask ‘Would it be okay if we talked about your
performance on the Meyerson job?’” (Zemke 82). Obviously, as a manager, one does not need to
ask permission; however, this peer-approach will likely resonate much better with the
Boomer generation.

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Generation Xers
Research has shown that Generation Xers tend to be Hands On Coaches (or Avoiders)
when it comes to leadership styles, but in the workplace they can sometimes come across as rude
slackers with a lack of social skills (Zemke 111). As previously stated, this is simply because of
the way that they were raised, taught to think for themselves first by absentee parents. This does
not mean that they are not assets in the workplace, however. In fact, they are adaptable,
independent, creative, and technically literate, which are all excellent advantages on the job.
Anyone working under a Generation Xer should remember that they want to do their own
work and then come together to work with their employees in hands-on coaching sessions. They
are likely to respect employees who can work independently and then come together to learn,
challenge and develop together. They have been taught from a young age to disagree with things
and therefore they are likely to be honest and straightforward with their employees (Zemke 108).
It is important for other generations to know to expect this before going into a work environment
with a Gen Xer boss (especially Millennials and Boomers who expect to be loved and coddled).
As for managers of Gen Xers, they can certainly be motivated to do excellent work;
Zemke recommends providing “flexible hours, an informal work environment, and just the right
amount of supervision” (106). Another important thing for managers of Gen Xers to remember is
that this generation is very willing to leave a job if it doesn’t appeal to them, and so it is
necessary to remind them that every job has tedious aspects. “There’s no evidence that Xers
expect work to be totally engaging and completely meaningful. They are not naïve; just don’t
pretend that some meaningless task is really important, they will respect you more for frankness
and honesty” (Zemke 112).

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Millennials
Last but not least, the Millennials have been described as Democratic Developers, which
means that they love to work in groups and teams and allow everyone to have an opinion and a
vote. To other generations, they may come across as lacking of respect, fragile, unrealistic, and
spoiled; however, one must remember that they were raised being told that they were special and
capable and so they truly believe that to be true (Zemke 151). Being raised in such a positive
environment made them optimistic and tenacious; plus, being raised as digital natives has made
them excellent multitaskers and technologically savvy.
There may not be many millennial leaders out there, but their time is just around the
corner and they are expected to hit the ground running. For anyone who has a Millennial
manager it is important to remember that they are characterized by consensus. They will want to
get everyone’s opinion on goals and objectives and will likely respect the employees that
participate and provide feedback. Millennials are also defined by their technological lifestyle—
so, older generations should not be surprised to receive Facebook messages, text messages, and
IMs from their Millennial bosses.
For those older generations who are currently managing Millennials, there are many ways
to work with them to make their work-style fit into the organization. Perhaps most importantly,
Millennials need to be engaged. As previously mentioned, Millennials have been part of the
decision making process at home since they were tiny tots (Lancaster and Stillman); so involving
them in decisions and giving them opportunities to help solve problems from the get go will
inspire them. Also, remember that they are motivated by teamwork, so letting them collaborate
with their peers on projects will benefit all parties.

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Overall, this research found clues that would help the generations learn to work together.
That being said, it is of course always important to remember that generational cohort is just one
of many items that affect the way one leads. From gender to life circumstances, there is not one
single defining feature that can completely predict the way a person will react in work situations;
however, with such strong correlations between leadership style, communication preferences,
and generation, it is fair to say that these findings can provide an excellent starting point for
anyone who is working in today’s multigenerational workplace.
---

CONCLUSION
All in all, this research has provided a glimpse into the minds of today’s leaders. As
Traditionalists and Baby Boomers continue to push back their retirement dates and Millennials
advance further into their careers, American businesses are facing the reality that multiple
generations are currently serving together in the workplace. Perhaps the greatest takeaway from
all of this research is that a one-size-fits-all work environment is no long viable. Luckily,
although each generation has strong differences in leadership and communication style, exposure
to differing management styles does not need to cause trepidation for today’s workers. By simply
understanding one another, workers can find better ways to approach one another.
By digging into the specific differences between the four generations and gaining
understanding of the effects that these differences may have on management and work styles,
workers can see how and why each generation is the way they are, which will provide a clearer
picture about the leadership skills and practices among the four generations of managers.
Moreover, by knowing that each generation has a tendency to lead in a certain way, employees

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and managers alike can better predict their coworkers’ leadership and communication styles
based on the era in which they were raised.
By reading and absorbing this information, it is this author’s hope that the next time a
Baby Boomer starts a new career path in which he or she is supervised by a Millennial, their
communication will be smoother based on their understanding of one another. In fact, instead of
butting heads about whether flexible hours or scheduled hours is better, both parties can be
prepared to understand the others’ viewpoints ahead of time, ultimately finding that working with
members of different generations can and should be beneficial to the workforce as a whole. By
holding a better understanding of one another, future workforces can leverage differences,
instead of fighting them.
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APPENDIX A
Communication Styles Inventory (CSI): Descriptives and Gender Differences.

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