Millennial Leadership

Who Are Millennials?

While no precise date is set, millennials are considered to be born between 1982 and 2005. Rather than age, it’s the trending behavior which identifies the group. Millennials have developed work characteristics and tendencies from doting parents, structured lives, and contact with diverse people. They have been pampered and have grown up in the wealthiest generation to date.

Why Do I Care?

Millennials are engineered very different from those before them. For example, the notion that work starts at 8 and ends at 5 is not in their programming. This can be a good thing and bad, but most importantly is that you adapt. For older generations the programming is different. You didn’t have a cell phone, a pager, or email. When you went home for work, you disconnected yourself from the job and forgot all about it. Today, millennials are always connected. The work/home life is blurred with undefined lines. Emails are answered all hours of the night, phone calls and texts are answered anytime, work continues long after the sun goes down.

While this all sounds good, it isn’t without its drawbacks. First, because the work/life line is blurred, millennials expect more flexibility to balance their life during the day. For some this is flex hours, for others it’s more vacation. Second, because millennials mesh the lines of work/life they expect work to have the same meaning as their life; requiring business to adopt social responsibility policies. Millennials see work more as a service and less as a paycheck. They also want to be challenged and held more accountable to the things that matter while having less supervision to those that don’t.[quote_right]Do you continue your traditional model and behaviors, bury your head in the sand, and hope it all passes? Or, do you embrace the millennials, knowing they are your future leaders, and build a culture that adopts, trains and retains the best talent for the future?[/quote_right]

Businesses that fail to adapt to the new generation will be unable to attract the best talent. Industries that are historically traditional are already seeing this challenge. Construction, for instance, is finding it difficult to attract craft-workers. The construction industry is already “branded” as old, unimaginative, and unstable. Finding qualified workers is already plaguing the industry; couple that with a traditional and “old school” hierarchal law and the industry appears to still be in the stone age.

What is Millennial leadership?

If you ask millennials what leadership is, they define it as, “Motivating or influencing others to reach a shared goal.” (Hartford, 2013) But, I’m talking to you, the current leaders. Millennial leadership will require you to mold the leaders of tomorrow. The reality is, the millennial generation will be leading our businesses and country in the next 20 years. Many argue that millennials are “entitled,” “coddled” and “addicted to their smartphones,” but you don’t have any other gene pool to pick from. Also, despite popular belief, millennials see themselves as leaders–78 percent! (Hartford, 2013).

As new social practices take hold, destroying the boundary between personal and professional life, will you embrace or resist the change? You have a leadership decision to make. Do you continue your traditional model and behaviors, bury your head in the sand, and hope it all passes? Or, do you embrace the millennials, knowing they are your future leaders, and build a culture that adopts, trains and retains the best talent for the future?

How Do I Get Started?

Leaders fail to realize that, above all, millennials want to be mentored. They want to learn from your experience, wisdom and failures. Some organizations have started bidirectional training. C-staff are taking millennials under their wings to learn operational strategy while millennials are teaching C-staff the social waves of the future. Perhaps, developing a leadership training program tied to business accountability will attract the right future talent.

Quick Take-Aways

* Your leadership strategy must include plans to attract millennial talent
* Millennials want to lead, but need mentoring by older generations
* Your corporate culture must be flexible to retain talented leaders

Additional Resources
– Becoming the Boss, New Rules for the Next Generation of Leaders; Lindsey Pollak
– A world Gone Social, How Companies Must Adapt to Survive; Ted Coine and Mark Babbitt

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