Emphasize commonalities among the generations and build a “we” culture.

As I reflect, I cannot help to think about what my father taught me while growing up.  He said, “choose a career path that is fulfilling, that gives you satisfaction and that it also provides for you and your family.”  In my head, what he meant was “find a job that makes you happy.”  As I start my 11th year in the workforce, and with experience as both an entry level employee, and as a district and school administrator, I can say that while what my father taught me was a well-intentioned advice, there is more to job fulfillment and satisfaction that the simple act of choosing a career.  Feeling happy in the work setting has a lot to do with the people we work with and the leadership that guides us.  In the book “Reframing Organizations”, Bolman & Deal describe that “In organizations, many of the greatest highs and lows stem from relations with other people” (Bolman & Deal, 2013, p. 164).

As I reflect on my experiences as an employee and as a leader, I can see how the concept of relationship is rooted deeply in the well-being of employees and leaders.  Consequently, this is also highly related to the well-being of an entire organization.   Bolman & Deal suggests that it is because of this reason that leaders must “spend most of their time relating to other people in multiple settings” (Bolman & Deal, 2013, p. 162).  They say that for leaders, “the quality of their relationships figures prominently in how satisfied and how effective they are at work” (Bolman & Deal, 2013, p. 162).   As leaders, it is our job to continue to build future leaders, to tap into their strengths and to leverage their skills to support the organizations’ mission and vision.  It is our responsibility to ensure that the leadership practices we engage in, not only builds the capacity of our employees but that it also makes them feel satisfaction, a sense of belonging and to feel accomplished through the relationships they build.  Bolman & Deal support this claim when they say that “Leadership style had a powerful impact on both productivity and morale” (Bolman & Deal, 2013, p. 172).

In the article “Creating Synergy in the Schoolhouse,” Lovely discusses how the landscape of schools is changing.   She argues that “A significant and potentially problematic result of the changing dynamics of the American workforce, is the growing infusion that brings young, old and in-between together into the same employment mix” (Lovely, 2005, p. 30).  This is important for leaders to know and understand because as Lovely describes “generational groups are bind together by shared experiences, hardships and social norms” (Lovely, 2005, p. 30), and “These links cause people to maintain similar attitudes, ambitions, and synergy” (Lovely, 2005, p. 30).   As Leaders, we have to take these generation dynamics into consideration when leading change and building culture. Our interest should be in bringing the best out of the people we lead.  Our main objective is to promote school improvement and student achievement.  To accomplish this, school leaders must be able to establish collaborative teams and develop a culture of trust and respect.  This means that we must work on building relationships by carefully taking in consideration generational values, norms and expectations.  This idea is reinforced by Saphier and King in the article “Good Seeds Grow in Strong Cultures” who claim that “if certain norms of school culture are strong, improvement in instruction will be significant, continuous, and widespread” (Saphier & King, 1985, p. 67).

Regardless of the who we lead, and the generation they belong in, I firmly believe as school leaders we must focus on improving our knowledge base related to leadership practices.  As Bolman and Deal suggest “Leadership help groups develop a shared sense of direction and commitment” (Bolman & Deal, 2013, p. 181).  I believe leaders must continue to work on building the capacity of others by creating safe spaces that emphasize common goals and mutual influence.   Bolman & Deal also suggest that leaders benefit greatly from “expressing openly what they think and feel and to actively seek understanding of others’ thoughts and feelings” (Bolman & Deal, 2013, p. 167).    As a leader myself, this is really hard to do, because the fear of being vulnerable in front of others.  However, I have learned that the more open and honest I am about my thoughts and intentions, the more receptive the people I lead and collaborate with are about my ideas and innovations.  Similarly, when people know that I am open, honest and vulnerable, they are more willing to put themselves in a similar situation and also share their ideas and innovations.

Finally, I also believe that leaders must consider the informal roles and norms of groups in organizations.   Bolman & Deal write that “the right set of task roles helps get work done and makes optimal use of each member’s resources” (Bolman & Deal, 2013, p. 175).  What this means to me, is that as leaders, it is our job to help members of the organization find a comfortable and satisfying personal role within.  I am very passionate about this topic as leadership is of high interest to me.  I could not agree more with Bolman & Deal when they say “Leadership plays an important role in developing group effectiveness and individual satisfaction.  Good leaders are sensitive to both task and process and enlist others in managing both” (Bolman & Deal, 2013, p. 181).  In my opinion, it is the key for organizations to keep their best talent, no matter their age, engaged and productive.


Bolman, L. G., & Deal, T. E. (2013). Reframing Organizations. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Lovely, S. (2005). Creating Synergy in the Schoolhouse. The School Administrator, 30-34.

Saphier, J., & King, M. (1985). Good Seeds Grow in Strong Cultures. Educational Leadership, 67-74.

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