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Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

What the Next Generation Wants From Its Leaders and What Business Needs To Do About It

This conversation can’t just be about women: It has to include everyone, regardless of gender or generation.

  • March 2019

Today marks the fifth year of Egon Zehnder’s Leaders & Daughters events in London. We introduced the initiative to start a conversation, bringing together leaders, their daughters, and mentees to explore together the opportunity gap faced by the next generation of women leaders.

Crucially, this programme acknowledges that this conversation can’t just be about women. It has to include everyone, regardless of gender or generation.

The need for that conversation has been underlined by the research we conducted this year asking executives - at every career level, across generations and geographies - about what really matters to them in their professional and personal lives.

We’ve found that the assumptions that are often made about men and women having different career aspirations and priorities don’t stand up. The men and women we spoke to share a very similar outlook on where they want their careers to go, and how to achieve work-life balance.

But it’s clear that, with new generations entering the workplace, there is a shift in perspectives.

This isn’t about the often quoted stereotypes of millennials. The qualities younger generations expect to see in their leaders are different compared to those who have gone before them. They prize humility over resilience, and many see a lack of mentoring or sponsorship at work as a real barrier to achieving their career aspirations.

"Leaders need to think carefully about how they can meet the changing expectations of the next generation, and organisations should reassess whether the way they identify and develop the leaders of the future is still effective."

This means that leaders will need to think carefully about how they can meet the changing expectations of them, and organisations should reassess whether the way they identify and develop the leaders of the future is still effective.

But both the research and our work with organisations tell us there are some principles that can help meet the challenge.


Leaders & Daughters is founded on an understanding of the influence generations can have on one another.

My parents, my education, and the emerging market environment I grew up in had a huge influence on me. I know the mindset I still apply to this day - of resilience, accountability, challenging myself and others - was shaped early on.

Organisations have a role to play in this too. We can all point to particular individuals who have had made an impact on us when starting our career, but one thing that has come across strongly over the five years of Leaders & Daughters is that this isn’t a one way street – mentors can benefit too. You just have to read the letters parents have written to their daughters to accompany the initiative to see the influence children can have on their parents.

There is no single approach to embedding mentorship, but senior leaders should appreciate the value a programme can have, actively engage with it themselves, and recognise those who are strong mentors within their organisation.

Openness and authenticity

We cannot expect our leaders to be all things to all people. But the old approach of command and control, of the ‘hero’ leader, won’t work anymore. Being open, honest, and authentic can help a leader engage and motivate their colleagues, regardless of which generation they are from.

Leading with purpose

 More and more organisations are seeking people who can lead with purpose and engage the whole workforce and the next generation in a different way. The task for all of us is to ensure that we are preparing our leaders to do this, and equipping the next generation of leaders with the skills and perspective to manage the changes that will face them in turn.

Adapting to these changes has always been a challenge - every generation is different to the last. But leaders do have to make sure they understand the shifting expectations on them. If they are to do that, we need to keep this conversation going.

Egon Zehnder’s Leaders & Daughters initiative helps harness the energy and excitement of a new wave of female leaders, along with the wisdom and experience of seasoned leaders. The goal: To pave a path to a better world. 

Learn more about Leaders & Daughters by visiting

This year’s theme – Power Moves: A New Generation of Women Transforms Leadership – addresses how emerging generations sees the world differently. Their aspirations, values, and viewpoints challenge traditional ways of thinking.  As older generations leaves the workforce, how will this shift in power and perspective reshape organizations?

Stay up to date on the 30+ events happening worldwide via the #LeadersAndDaughters hashtag.

#LeadersAndDaughters #BalanceForBetter #IWD2019

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