Generation Y: Is Gen Y Looking For an “OZ” Leader?


In writing this blog a strange memory returned … the scene in “The Wizard of Oz” when Dorothy’s dog Toto pulls the curtain back to reveal that the great Wizard of Oz is just an average man hiding behind an imposing image.

“Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.”

“The great Oz has spoken,” said the Wizard in the 1939 classic movie.

Wait!  Is it true we’ve been led by a Wizard or two during our careers?

Perhaps, but the leaders that truly inspire others to greatness are more like Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Lion all fused together. This “Oz” type leader may be just what Generation Y is looking for!

The days of leading from behind the corporate title or curtain (door) are over.

Being “real” is important to Generation Y—they can detect a fake or insincere leader very quickly.

They are less tolerant than their parents’ generation (Baby Boomers) and will be the first to expose the wizard in their office [].


Can a children’s movie released in 1939 teach us lessons in leadership that can be applied in the new workplace? A workplace soon to be dominated by Generation Y?  Yes. Here’s why.

Generation Y…

  • Value integrity in their supervisor
  • Will change jobs at a moment’s notice to be on a team they find more meaningful
  • Are loyal to those they see walking the talk
  • Value teamwork and open communication
  • Value the example set more than the advice – they value action
  •  Don’t like the corporate hierarchy
  • Embrace partnerships – were often treated as partners with their parents
  • See themselves equal in decision-making authority at a younger age and expect equitable relationships with their supervisors

Each of these points can be supported by a scene found in this timeless movie. Leaders with vision, brains, heart and courage not only appeal to Generation Y but can inspire anyone to greatness.  So, grab your coffee (and maybe some popcorn) and join me as we travel down The Yellow Brick Road.

“To grasp and hold a vision, that is the very essence of successful leadership – not only on the movie set where I learned it, but everywhere.” – Ronald Reagan

VISION    The power of a bold vision can energize a team

When you think of Dorothy as a leader it seems all wrong—or does it? She was a young girl, far from home, lost, vulnerable, and at times bewildered. She did not have the knowledge to avoid all the problems and dangers along the Yellow Brick Road but she didn’t give up. She set her sights on getting to OZ and stayed the course when times got tough.

  1. Dorothy gathered her teams concerns and input while practicing the art of collaborative leadership
  2. Her vision was clear enough to give direction and compelling enough to entice others to join her on her journey
  3. Dorothy was on a quest to fulfill her own needs and the needs of others who joined her

Some leaders try hard to be something they are not. Dorothy did not consider herself a leader.  She was real and her vision was clear. She allowed her team the freedom and opportunity to grow during their journey down The Yellow Brick Road.

“By three methods we learn wisdom: first, by reflection, which is the noblest; second, by imitation, which is the easiest; and third, by experience, which is the bitterest.” – Confucius

BRAINS   It takes brains and wisdom to achieve success

There is a scene in the forest where Dorothy and the Scarecrow stop to pick some apples but the apple tree does not want to hand over the fruit and puts up a fight. The scarecrow creates a plan to taunt the tree until it becomes so angry it starts to throw apples at him, letting go of the very thing it desperately wanted to hold onto.  In the end, it is the scarecrow who also puts together the plan to rescue Dorothy from the castle of the Wicked Witch.

  • The scarecrow becomes smarter as he travels through Oz with the group
  • He does not realize his full potential, yet others see it in him
  • Throughout the movie the scarecrow not only shows his intelligence even though he lacks a brain, but he also shows his leadership 
  • He learns by reflecting

At the end, The Wizard gives him a degree, but it comes only after he has done plenty of great thinking.

“Leadership is not so much about technique and method as it is about opening the heart. Leadership is about inspiration – of oneself and of others. Great leadership is about human experiences, not processes. Leadership is not a formula or a program; it is a human activity that comes from the heart and considers the hearts of others. It is an attitude, not a routine.” – Lance Secretan

HEART    Inspire excellence with compassion and passion

The Tin Man didn’t have a heart, but he still had the ability to care. In fact, he is the most caring character in the story.  He cared so much that he shed tears which caused him to rust. He had compassion for others as well as the passion to stand up for what he believed, often facing his fears to do the right thing.

  • The Tin Man was in search of a heart. It was through the supportive relationships around him that his presence of compassion, conviction, and a concern for others emerged
  • He showed his emotion – everything flowed out of his heart
  • He understood that above experience, knowledge, and skills it was his heart that was the most important
  • The Tin Man’s heart kept the team going down the road even when times seemed uncertain

All leaders should have their hearts checked once in a while. A heart is foundational to building a healthy team and organization. This could be the leader’s most important work.

“A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader but becomes one by the quality of his actions and the integrity of his intent.” – Mike Jones

COURAGE   It takes courage to challenge the status quo and stay the course 

The Cowardly Lion was on a journey in search of courage. He was a big talker and appeared confident, yet found himself intimidated by both small and large beasts of the forest. It was through moments when his friends’ lives were endangered that he found the courage to risk his own life and take a stand.

  • “All right, I’ll go in there for Dorothy. Wicked Witch or no Wicked Witch, guards or no guards, I’ll tear them apart. I may not come out alive, but I’m going in there.”   – The Lion
  • The Lion always keeps his eyes on the prize through each obstacle he encounters. He set out determined to do what the Wizard asked in order to receive his courage
  • Over and over again the Lion pushed through his fear. His driving motivation was that no matter what he must do what the Wizard asked to attain his dream.  In the end he found the courage within himself.

Courage is not the absence of fear but the ability to control it. It is found in standing up and acting on behalf of those who may not be able to defend themselves. Doing what is right and at times against all odds.

If you want to know what type of leadership inspires Generation Y – ask them!

The characteristics they share with you will likely mirror a few if not all that are found in these leaders from Oz – ones who foster a culture of not only wanting to keep their employees but one that results in employees wanting to stay.

The bottom line…OZ leaders never go out of style!

Do you have a story to share? We would love to hear what you have to say!