In a massive study by the Hay Group, a global management consulting firm, researchers analyzed data from over 5 million employees across the world to make comparisons across different generations.

Surprisingly, they found that generational differences have more to do with stages of development in employees rather than their generational makeup -- those commonly-held beliefs and stereotypes about each generation.

In other words, the differences between Millennials versus Boomers versus Generation X better reflect changes in perceptions and expectations due to their age and career stage, rather than generational thinking or values.

This includes their preferences for how they're managed and led, and what the work environment has to offer. So that begs the question: What does each generation want from their bosses? Turns out, much of the same things.

In the end, people of any generation that call themselves "human beings" really want to follow those they can respect, admire, and trust. There are certain, transcending characteristics in next generation leaders that apply to all generations.

1. Next generation leaders embrace diversity.

In an age of racial tension and discrimination, next generation leaders will embrace diversity; welcome differing opinions, ideas, and expressions; and create an open environment that promotes mutual understanding, where people come together for a greater good. They encourage an open and psychologically safe environment where people can talk openly about their specific needs, desires, interests, ideas, strengths, and talents where everyone feels valued. 

2. Next generation leaders adapt their styles to each individual.

Think about it. Do you, as a leader, define your employees' needs by gender or age? And do employees, when hired, expressing wanting a work environment that's based on age preferences? What next generation leaders do to engage and motivate their teams in the best way possible is to build their own self-awareness and draw on a range of different leadership styles to adapt to the person and situation.

3. Next generation leaders take their employees' pulse regularly.

One surefire way to discourage employees is to treat them like they're invisible. To keep them engaged, great leaders talk about their work -- a lot. In one report published by PeopleFluent in 2015, half of all Millennials surveyed prefer monthly and even more frequent performance reviews (only 9.8 percent surveyed prefer the annual version). The same goes for leaders open to receive regular and ongoing feedback from their employees to ensure their work is meaningful, the environment is safe, and obstacles are removed from their path. Companies like Officevibe and TINYpulse make a living from this approach, providing "always on" pulse surveys to drive culture, engagement, and performance. 

4. Next generation leaders leverage the power of the praise.

"I don't like compliments," said no human being, ever. Managers have to get into the habit of praising and complimenting their people for their good qualities and work. The companies in Gallup's study with the highest engagement levels use recognition and praise as a powerful motivator to get their commitment. They found that employees who receive it on a regular basis increase their individual productivity, receive higher loyalty and satisfaction scores from customers, and are more likely to stay with their organization. Being recognized in front of their peers or the organization has special worth because everyone can then see the value that an employee is bringing. According to Gallup, praise should be given once per week.

5. Next generation leaders provide leadership advancement.

Research has proven that Millennials, in particular, are very much interested in leadership positions and rapid career advancement. In one massive joint study conducted by Universum, INSEAD Emerging Markets Institute, and the HEAD Foundation, nearly 70 percent of Millennials across the globe say achieving a managerial or leadership role in their careers is important. Key point here: They value the opportunity to influence the organization for which they work.

6. Next generation leaders share their leadership.

To truly build employee loyalty, the best leaders allow their most valued workers to have a seat at the table to make decisions and exercise influence over things that matter in the business. At your company, think of decisions over key projects, strategy, mission, or hiring, in which key individual contributors can get involved and provide input. Take a cue from the global insurance company Acuity, rated one of the 100 Best Companies to Work For in Fortune magazine. It drives loyalty by regularly letting its employees (a large portion of them Millennials) decide to which charity organizations Acuity will donate its millions.

A way forward

As companies identify, hire, and develop future leaders to engage and motivate their teams, the ones out of the gates the fastest will ultimately create a work environment that gets the best from everyone, regardless of generational label.