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Are leadership values different across generations? A comparative leadership analysis of CEOs v. MBAs

Mark J. Ahn (Atkinson Graduate School of Management, Willamette University, Salem, Oregon, USA)
Larry W. Ettner (Atkinson Graduate School of Management, Willamette University, Salem, Oregon, USA)

Journal of Management Development

ISSN: 0262-1711

Article publication date: 7 October 2014

4652

Abstract

Purpose

The popular use of labels such as Baby Boomers, Generation X, Generation Y and Millennials suggests that the nature of effective leadership changes over time in response to the prevailing modern context. Using a values-based leadership lens, defined as the moral foundation underlying stewardship decisions and actions of leaders, the purpose of this paper is to explore the alternative notion that fundamental leadership ideals – from antiquity to modern executives to MBA students – are timeless in nature.

Design/methodology/approach

Using a thematic analysis approach, The Aeneid was coded for key leadership themes (integrity, good judgment, leadership by example, decision-making, trust, justice/fairness, humility, and sense of urgency); and a mixed-method research framework was employed to juxtapose the leadership lessons identified to the demands of modern leadership. Deductive thematic analysis was utilized to examine key themes from responses of 13 multi-sectoral leaders (for profit, non-profit, government) and 137 MBA students (from three MBA programs in differing regions).

Findings

Whether viewed qualitatively or quantitatively, or across sectors, the findings of this study affirm the explicit relevance of The Aeneid to the demands of modern leadership. Additionally, it was found that the way managers ranked leadership values was not significantly different from how MBA students ranked the same values. Moreover, the authors found integrity to be a superordinate value – without which the remaining values have far less significance.

Originality/value

This research highlights a leadership paradox – while managerial traits are an important consideration for the prevailing operational context in the short term, a values-based approach to hiring, promoting and retaining leaders may be superior in achieving organizational sustainability and performance. This study illustrates the practical contemporary relevance of The Aeneid specifically, and illustrates a humanities laden and values-based approach to reflecting on leadership effectiveness generally.

Keywords

Citation

J. Ahn, M. and W. Ettner, L. (2014), "Are leadership values different across generations? A comparative leadership analysis of CEOs v. MBAs", Journal of Management Development, Vol. 33 No. 10, pp. 977-990. https://doi.org/10.1108/JMD-10-2012-0131

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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