Leading Millennials

Sep 30, 2015

blogIn the last post, we discussed that a leader is defined as a person who guides or directs a group according to dictionary.com. While this is a simple enough definition, leadership styles vary significantly and generationally. Conferences and classes, seminars and videos are dedicated to improving the approach and technique of leadership.

Every generation has had “common practice” with regard to leadership styles. In this Cincom article, The Leadership Styles of Different Generations, Chuck Underwood lays out a terrific and brief description of each generation’s style of leadership, including the GI Generation, Silent Generation, Boomers, X-ers and Millennials. He explains; “It takes a few years for a new leadership generation to disentangle from the prior generation’s two decades of leadership, but when it does, its unique core values push America in a direction that is significantly—and often profoundly—different from the direction of the prior generation. Such is the power of generational leadership.”

Great generational leadership begins with knowledge of oneself – the style in which we lead and the style in which we are most motivated and inspired by. It also takes some time, thought and grace to engage and understand the upcoming generation’s unique personality and leadership style tendencies. For instance, according to Dan Schawbel, founder of Workplacetrends.com and managing partner of Millennial Branding, “Boomers have been autocratic leaders that are all about command, control and policies, such as working nine-to-five. Millennials want to create a more collaborative environment where they exchange ideas with peers and accomplish a mission instead of a corporate culture that’s rigid with policies and procedures.” (CIO.com)

So, who are these Millennials and how can we lead them and learn from them?

Millennials are 18-32 currently and are still an up-and-coming generation, with some still in high school. There is not a clear ending year for this generation so we will need to wait and see. The Cincom article best explains:

Mils are showing the promise of giving America the kind of leadership greatness that G. I.’s gave and Boomers should give; optimistic, ethical, compassionate, visionary and bold; but it is likely Millennials will profoundly alter the traditional leadership hierarchy; look for multiple CEO’s and virtual Boards of Directors and much more decision-by-consensus.

For the first time in history, generational study—and strategy—are in place to help each generation identify its likely leadership strengths and weaknesses. Boomers, X’ers and Millennials can benefit from this knowledge.

In a nutshell, to lead Millennials is to listen to Millennials. Including their unique ideas, utilizing their energy and digital savvy, engaging their ethical convictions and acknowledging their collaborative approach will speak volumes and empower these young leaders to eventually take the reigns and lead your family, company, church and country.

Be flexible; lead with adaptability and reap the benefits of every generation in the workforce. There is tremendous power in healthy generational leadership.


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