Senior enlisted leaders discuss cross-generational leadership

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Joseph Raatz
  • Air Force Global Strike Command Public Affairs
Cross-generational leadership was the topic of discussion during a seminar led by senior enlisted leaders at the Global Strike Challenge 2014 symposium here, Nov. 5.

Following the symposium's theme of empowering Airmen and bridging into the future, Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James Cody and Command Sgt. Maj. Patrick Alston, the command senior enlisted leader at U.S. Strategic Command, hosted an engaging discussion to provide an enlisted viewpoint on the generation gap and its effect on modern military leadership.

"We have to bridge this generation gap in order to move forward into the future," Cody said. "These new men and women are the leaders of our military, or will be in the near future, and we have to understand that. I think the first step is that you have to acknowledge who they are as people, as individuals. You're not going to make them who you are, just as you're not the people who came before you."

Generational differences can create strain on the relationship between the leader and the led, Alston said. One way to alleviate this is through developing a deeper understanding of those differences.

"We have to understand that we are not dealing with the Airmen of yesterday, but with the Airmen of today," Alston said. "We have to transform our leadership abilities to reflect that and to be able to reach them. You have to reach into their circle, to understand their needs. Without you understanding them, your leadership methods may fall on deaf ears."

Cody and Alston discussed how differences in the way the current generation was raised can impact how they respond to different leadership styles.

"In order to be a profound leader, you have to understand the individuals that you're leading," Alston said. "The generation you're dealing with today is a generation that has a foundation of being inquisitive. They're not being inquisitive for the purpose of questioning your authority, but to be able to better understand the total meaning of the orders or direction you've given them. You have to adapt to that to remain an effective leader."

By creating a strong bridge between generations, Cody said, leaders can tap the full potential of their most important resource: people.

"It's about having meaningful and purposeful discussions with the men and women who serve," Cody said. "This bridge is built on mutual trust and respect. Over time we will work through all those dynamics and that bridge will be built and will become very strong.

"We will value and acknowledge each and every person that comes into our military for who they are what they bring to the table," he continued. "And they do bring a tremendous amount to that table."