I just read an article in the Globe and Mail about how to manage so-called “Millenials.” Never has so much navel gazing led to such hot air with so little logic or evidence to back it up. But other than that I don’t feel strongly about it…

The problem I see with the whole Gen-X, Gen-Y and other assorted generation alphabet soup claims is that they are based on (re)discovering things that have always existed. Young people today supposedly need meaningful work and only respond to good leadership. When was it ever different? And moreover, isn’t that what all people want, at least in some measure?

As an officer in the Canadian Army from 1985 to 2006, I saw a transition to more meaningful and transformational leadership, but it applied to everyone, not just Gen-Xers and Gen-Yers. Someone in their forties or fifties was no more accommodating of incompetent leadership and asinine work than someone in their teens, twenties, or thirties. I know I always wanted meaningful work and a sense of belonging.

Anyone who has read Plato will know that elders have been harping about the supposed lack of respect for authority or their impatience with traditional ways of doing things of the younger generations since at least the 5th century BC. And it’s been going on ever since. Remember the Monty Python skit about the “Young People Today”? It came out in the early 70s, before they’re were Millenials, or Generation Alphabet Soup.

And what about all those previous generations of dreamers and rebels who wanted to change society and intergenerational relations? Weren’t they looking for meaningful work, a sense of belonging, and other intrinsic motivations? Didn’t they respond to competent, transformational leaders who sought to influence them through intrinsic motivation, the power of example, and challenging goals and responsibilities?

The sooner we get off this generational hobby horse, the sooner we can get back to sound principles of leadership, which I’ve written about extensively. People of all ages, backgrounds, and cultures respond to inspirational and competent leadership no matter what the circumstances. No one likes to follow an incompetent leader, except perhaps out of pure curiosity. I know, I’ve had the practical experiences leading soldiers and civilians, business people and managers, around the world in all environments.

Richard Martin is a Master Strategist and Leadership Catalyst. Richard brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to radically improve performance, grow, and thrive in the face of rapid change, harsh competition, and increasing uncertainty.

© 2015 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

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