How Can Leaders Adapt to the GenZ Workforce?

In this episode of the Leadership Level Up podcast, hosts Brian Prairie and Dr. Jeff Williamson talk with Dr. Santor Nishizaki about his leadership experiences and insights, especially concerning the GenZ workforce.

Dr. Nishizaki, an author and consultant, shares his early leadership lessons as a high school volleyball captain and the influence of a senior vice president who exemplified people-first leadership. The discussion covers the challenges of transitioning into leadership roles, the importance of listening and supporting team members, and the need for leadership development. Dr. Nishizaki also discusses his research on GenZ’s workplace preferences, emphasizing well-being, flexibility, and clear communication.

The Evolution of Leadership: A Personal Journey

Dr. Santorini Nishizaki, an esteemed author and founder of Mulholland Consulting Group, shared his leadership journey with us. He recounted a defining moment from his high school years when he was elected as the volleyball team captain. This role taught him that true leadership was about championing the team and fostering collective success, rather than individual glory. This early lesson became the cornerstone of his leadership philosophy: to elevate others and place the team’s needs above one’s own.

Teamwork as the Bedrock of Success

Dr. Jeff Williamson, my co-host, echoed Dr. Nishizaki’s sentiments on the importance of teamwork. Drawing from his experiences in academia and organizational settings, Dr. Williamson stressed the need for leaders to harness the collective talent of their teams, ensuring that success is a shared endeavor.

Learning from Leadership Exemplars

Our conversation took a turn towards the mentors who shape us. Dr. Nishizaki spoke of a senior vice president who exemplified leadership by genuinely caring for his employees. This leader’s approach highlighted the profound impact of compassion and the necessity of learning from both exemplary and flawed leaders.

The Leadership Development Gap

A critical challenge we discussed was the gap in leadership development. Dr. Williamson shared insights from his time teaching a management master’s program, noting that technical experts often ascend to leadership roles without the requisite skills to effectively manage teams. This gap underscores the urgency for comprehensive leadership training.

The Art of Listening and Supporting

Both Dr. Nishizaki and Dr. Williamson emphasized the art of listening to and understanding team members. Dr. Williamson shared his practice of conducting weekly one-on-one meetings, focusing on successes, challenges, and support mechanisms. This approach fosters an environment where individuals can leverage their strengths and creativity.

Gen Z in the Workplace: A New Paradigm

Dr. Nishizaki provided a deep dive into his research on GenZ’s workplace preferences. In the post-COVID-19 landscape, there’s a heightened emphasis on well-being and flexibility. Leaders must establish clear expectations for productivity, especially with remote work, and maintain open lines of communication.

Key Takeaways for Leaders

Our discussion left us with invaluable insights:

  • Leadership is about uplifting the team and prioritizing collective success.
  • Compassion and mentorship are vital components of effective leadership.
  • There’s a pressing need for leadership development programs to bridge the skills gap.
  • Understanding and supporting team members is crucial for fostering a productive environment.
  • Adapting to the needs and preferences of the GenZ workforce is essential for future success.

It’s clear – the dynamics of work culture are shifting, and leaders must be agile and responsive to these changes.

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Meet Your Guest

Dr. Santor Nishizaki

Award-winning CEO, #1 Bestselling author, TEDx & keynote speaker with NASA & Fortune 100 experience, helping Millennials and Generation Z reach their full potential using a strengths-based approach.

Dr. Santor Nishizaki is the Founder and CEO of the Mulholland Consulting Group, LLC. Santor created MCG to create a happier workplace by helping organizations increase generational awareness and discover strengths that can elevate individuals to reach their full potential.

Dr. Santor has been featured in Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, NBC, Fox, BBC,, CBC, and more. To see Santor’s full press, check out his website.

In addition to keynote speaking and corporate training, Dr. Nishizaki is a college professor who teaches classes around soft skills, leadership, global business, and social entrepreneurship at many schools in Southern California, including Pepperdine University, up to the Ph.D. level and was nominated as Lecturer of the Year in 2023 at Cal State LA.

About the Leadership LevelUp Podcast

Being a boss and a leader are very different. A boss tells you what to do and a leader partners with you in the process. Jeff, being a leader of leaders, has a vast knowledge of best practices and exercises to discover leadership traits. Brian shares stories with Jeff about the ups and downs of his leadership quest while talking to business and community leaders to discuss their personal leadership journey. Who influenced them? What do they do when they have a bad day? What gives them inspiration? Do french fries or tacos or ice cream make them feel better after a bad day? Through laughter and casual conversation, Brian and Jeff explore all aspects of good leadership.

Meet Your Hosts

Jeff Williamson

Brian Prairie

Show Sponsor

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