Generation Alpha are growing up in a time of increasing complexity and greater uncertainty. So, it might be a surprise to some that we believe the outlook for Generation Alpha is positive.
While this generation is set to face a number of challenges (like the generations before them) they are being raised with a focus on empathy, which is essential for this generation to thrive in a more diverse world.
Greater empathy needed for greater diversity
Being shaped in a world that is increasingly diverse and globally connected, Generation Alpha are growing up with different perspectives and a greater diversity of opinion than any other generation before them. This diversity is also being intentionally represented in many stories, books and TV shows targeting Generation Alpha.
Growing in empathy is an important part of the social and emotional development of children. They can, indeed must, have it modelled and taught. In simple terms, empathy is the ability to walk in someone else’s shoes.
The three key characteristics of empathy are:
1. That children are able to understand and value the uniqueness and difference of others.
2. That they can identify different emotions and be equipped to name them.
3. That they are able to regulate their own emotional responses and positively respond to the emotions of others.
If your Generation Alpha doesn’t display empathy all the time, it’s not a cause for too much concern, as they are still young and learning! We heard the father of a three-year-old say recently that his son’s world is a two-metre sphere with him at the centre of it, and it travels with him wherever he goes.
There are some things parents and caregivers can do to help children develop empathy, including talking about and naming feelings, being attentive, caring for others (including animals) and demonstrating empathy for them.
Leading Generation Alpha well
As we look to the future and the decade ahead, to best serve this next generation it’s important to take the time to understand and engage with them. We’ve got to connect and communicate in ways that speak their language. What worked for Gen Y may not work for Generation Alpha, and what was effective in a leadership style in the twentieth century may be less effective in the twenty-first. This generation don’t need the same authority structures, hierarchies or traditional power approaches as previous generations because we’re in more collaborative times.
Generation Alpha need to be equipped with the skills and the competencies that will enable them to thrive in this era of change. How we equip this generation will be different to how it has been done in the past. People skills, not just technical skills, will be important for them to work, lead and thrive in increasingly diverse contexts. As we often advise, it is desirable that leaders bring intelligence to their roles, but it is essential that they exercise empathy. Leaders of head and heart are best placed to innovate amid disruption and engage across diversity.