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Leading the Next Generation

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Generation Y (also known as the "Net Generation," "Millennials," "Dot-com" Generation), the first native online population, is a very independent and tech savvy age group.

This generation includes more than 70 million Americans born in 1977 to 2002. 90 percent of them own a PC, 82 percent own a mobile device. They spend more time online than they do watching television shows.

According to statistics, 3 out of 4 Generation Y'ers use Facebook at least weekly, and the average individual in this group is known to belong to 2 social networking sites and has 231 connections.

They expect to obtain information at exceedingly rapid speeds. They like change and are changing careers faster than college students can change their majors, which present recruitment and retention issues to business employers.

Generational differences between the Boomers, X'ers and Y'ers create a challenging environment for leaders at all levels. It is not unusual for Y'ers to question the status quo, which could be aggravating in some situations, yet can be looked upon by the Boomers and the X'ers as an opportunity to gain fresh ideas.

Gen. Colin Powell states, "No good idea succeeds simply because it is a good idea. Good ideas must have champions--people willing to believe in them, push for them,
fight for them, gain adherents and other champions, and press until they succeed."

Y'ers are achievement-oriented, therefore, are the perfect champions for moving new initiatives to the forefront. Y'ers are team-oriented. Recall that in their younger years, most of them have participated in playgroups and have played team sports. They value teamwork--they want to be included and involved. Fresh ideas and teamwork, what a perfect recipe for success!

Yet, even with the most advanced technologies available to us today, establishing human contact, "Management by Wandering Around" seems to be the most effective way of getting to know people and getting to know what is happening in your organizations. A true and tried principle applied by famous leaders from President Lincoln to Gen. Colin Powell.

Keep in mind, that life and leadership is about people.