Lost Leaders: The Future of Generation Z in the Workplace


Generation Z: the absent leaders—now what?

As the workforce continues to evolve, professionals are becoming increasingly less willing to sacrifice their leisure time for work. This trend is particularly prominent among the current generation, with many individuals prioritizing personal time over career advancement. In fact, according to a recent survey conducted by Visier, a human analysis and workforce planning software, a staggering 91% of independent workers expressed a lack of desire to pursue people management roles due to factors such as stress, pressure, and job satisfaction.

In August 2023, Visier surveyed 1,000 full-time US workers to gain insights into their career and people management aspirations. The results revealed that a significant number of employees are opting out of leadership positions in favor of other priorities. One of the main reasons cited by interviewed workers for avoiding people management roles was the shifting priorities of today’s society.

“The pandemic has forced us to reevaluate our values and ambitions, leading to a change in the job market landscape. The new generations reflect these evolving trends in their career goals,” explains executive coach Milena Brentan.

Indeed, according to the Visier research, career-related priorities now rank fourth among workers, with other objectives taking precedence. The top goals identified by employees included spending time with family and friends, prioritizing physical and mental health, engaging in travel, receiving a raise, and pursuing hobbies or enjoying a flexible workplace. Notably, traditional markers of professional success, such as promotions and building a family, ranked lower on the list of priorities.

While the study encompassed professionals of all ages, it is clear that Generation Z is particularly focused on achieving a healthy work-life balance. “More than any other generation, Gen Z values meaningful experiences, flexibility, and a supportive workplace environment. The demands of leadership roles, with their heavy workloads and extensive responsibilities, may seem incompatible with this desire for quality of life,” says Luciana Carvalho, CEO of Chiefs.Group. However, she emphasizes that this does not mean that the generation is averse to work; rather, they prioritize their well-being and personal fulfillment.

Despite their potential, the unborn leaders of Generation Z face a significant hurdle: insecurity. The Visier study revealed that 55% of Generation Z respondents expressed a desire to assume people management roles within their organizations, yet many lack the confidence in their leadership abilities necessary to take on such positions.

The impending “leadership gap” highlighted by the Visier research serves as a warning to professionals of all ages. Daniela Diniz, director of content and IR at Ecossistema Great People & Great Place to Work, notes that young leaders, particularly those from Generation Z, value workplace flexibility above all else. This mindset sets them apart from previous generations, who may have prioritized stability and long-term employment.

The challenges faced by Generation Z as they enter the workforce are significant. Unlike previous generations, who may have adhered to traditional career paths, Generation Z is more likely to seek flexibility and fulfillment in their professional lives. This shift in values is reflected in their reluctance to pursue executive roles, as evidenced by a separate study conducted by YouGov Global Profiles.

The study found that the majority of Latin American Generation Z individuals are willing to sacrifice some free time in order to advance their careers, indicating a strong work ethic within this demographic. However, compared to Baby Boomers, Generation Z is less likely to express job satisfaction and dedication. This could be attributed to their focus on personal growth and career development, as noted by David Eastman, general director of YouGov Latin America.

It is evident that Generation Z is reshaping the workforce landscape, with a greater emphasis on work-life balance and personal fulfillment. As this generation navigates the challenges of entering the job market, it will be essential for organizations to adapt their leadership development strategies to accommodate the changing priorities and values of the emerging workforce. By addressing the needs and aspirations of Generation Z, employers can bridge the “leadership gap” and cultivate the next generation of leaders who are fully engaged and motivated to succeed.

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