Generation Z's expectations of their leaders: A cross-cultural, multi-dimensional investigation of leadership styles.
Keywords:Transformational leadership, transactional leadership, Generation Z, cross-cultural leadership, HR Management, global workforce
Gen Z representatives from one Western and one Eastern European country were the subjects of an empirical study investigating leadership style preferences and effects of motivation and performance on leader preferences. Data from 131 Ukrainian and 157 Austrian Gen Z representatives were analyzed. Different dimensions of leadership were examined, including transactional/transformational leadership and production/employee/change orientation of leaders. The results show significant differences in expectations between cultures, and within different leadership styles. Generation Z representatives from collectivist cultures with high power distance, long-term orientation, and high uncertainty avoidance have higher expectations of their future leaders than those from individualistic countries with lower power distance, less long-term orientation, and low uncertainty avoidance. A higher level of work motivation leads to a higher relevance of transformational, transactional pecuniary, and transactional non-pecuniary leadership styles in a collectivist, uncertainty-avoiding country with high power distance (Ukraine), while there is no effect in an individualistic country with low uncertainty avoidance and low power distance (Austria). Also, higher levels of work motivation lead to more appreciation of employee / production / change orientation in Ukraine, but only to higher levels of employee orientation in Austria. High performers in Austria tend to accept transactional sanction-based leadership, while this is not the case in Ukraine. In general, generations that may be described as universally similar have different perceptions depending on the culture they grew up in. For business leaders, the study provides insights into Gen Z employees and their leadership expectations. Managers from different business sectors working with employees from different cultural backgrounds should be aware of their employees’ different expectations. Recruiters will eventually have a better understanding of which arguments regarding leadership their future employees prefer and can adjust their recruitment messages accordingly.