In a recent workshop I attended, a discussion arose around the concept of adapting to others as a leader versus expecting followers to adapt to the leader. We explored adaptation as the “Platinum Rule,” where you treat others as they need to be treated (versus the “Golden Rule” where you treat others the way you want to be treated).

Our group discussed the Platinum Rule as the industry standard in how successful leaders and organizations approach leadership–now more than ever. The workplace is more complex now than ever before, forcing leaders to change their approach to lead effectively. Let’s explore some of the current complexities and what that means to leaders today.

The multi-generational workplace of today adds a high level of complexity. Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y, and Gen Z have had different societal norms and experiences growing up. These experiences have conditioned their leadership approach, how they define success, their communication, and how they are intrinsically motivated (just to name a few factors for leaders to consider).

Teams must overcome the challenges of negative opinions and conclusions about their “other” generational co-workers. These opinions are based on a lack of crucial information (see actor-observer bias). Leaders and their teams must work to understand sensitivities and motivators for each generation within the workforce and adapt to each other with a logic-based approach and solution.

Now that Millennials are the largest generation in the workforce, leaders must adapt how to best lead within this group and provide adaptive cultural strategies to be successful. Things like “chessboard” development opportunities, flattened communications, work-flexibility options, and engagement are critical to this group. They must be deliberately planned and developed to recruit and retain the most talented Millennial leaders.

Finally, leaders must plan for how to recover from pandemic norms beyond a “hybrid” work structure, which will test a leader’s adaptation skills. Re-thinking how to intrinsically motivate the multi-generational workforce with the right motivators to drive productivity is an adaptation jigsaw puzzle.

Just because you have the hybrid structure doesn’t necessarily equip your organization for long-term success. Thinking through long-term engagement strategies and creative solutions will take members from each generation to collaborate and generate solutions that work. Leaders must purposely promote this collaboration to create solutions to drive adaptive behaviors and redefined cultural norms.

Treating others the way they need to be treated is critical for success within organizations today to drive positive outcomes. Harnessing the power of each member of the team will take more than great pay and benefits. It takes listening, collaboration, innovation, and adaptation to motivate today’s complex organizations. Devoting some organizational energy and resources to this problem space is well worth it for leaders who want their organizations to move from surviving to thriving in today’s market.