In less than two years, Millennials will become the largest employee demographic. They’ve already become a major influence shaping the future of work, and as 10,000 Baby Boomers reach retirement age every day, they’re quickly advancing in the leadership ranks as well.
How will leadership change with this new generation taking the helm?
The most notable change will be the way we approach and view leadership. Authoritarian leadership is out, and inclusive leadership is in. The emerging trend in leadership is a manager who directs, not commands. Long gone are the days when the boss can hold the role of a dictator, disconnected from the employees sitting somewhere in a corner office. Millennials even prefer the term leader rather than boss.
Millennials also want direct connections with leadership teams, from their reporting manager all the way up to the C-Suite. They believe that everyone in the company should be accessible, regardless of title or seniority. This more linear method of leadership goes a long way in building trust, loyalty, and dedication in Millennial employees.
As leaders themselves, they place a high value on open workplaces with less emphasis on company hierarchy. They strive to create inclusive workplaces where everyone has an opportunity to share their voice, regardless of position or title. In this same regard, Millennial leadership is highly collaborative. They consult with managers, peers, mentors, and other advisors before making decisions. With their networks always at the tips of their fingers, they can quickly consult with their trusted circle of advisors or crowd source an answer to a question.
How can companies help Millennials grow as leaders?
The best way to help Millennials grow as leaders, whether they’re in a management position already or simply on the path to one, is to teach them as much as possible. Almost any situation can be turned into a learning opportunity. Give them the chance to lead – start small, and if they prove they can handle the responsibility, give them more. Millennials need more direction than previous generations, but given the right support they can become the most valuable employees to any company.
To successfully manage and lead Millennials, a sense of transparency is crucial. It’s not about giving them the keys to the castle that they haven’t yet earned, it’s about showing them the steps to take to get those keys. Give them measurable goals and hold them responsible for achieving them. Providing Millennials with something to work towards helps them understand how their role plays into the bigger picture. They want to know that their work matters.
Another challenge is keeping Millennials at one company long enough to invest in their leadership training. They tend to view jobs as places to learn and grow and seek out opportunities rather than longevity. One way to get them to start thinking longer term is to provide them with opportunities to learn within the company. Reverse mentoring is a great way to get them engaged, where they can lend their expertise to an older employee in return for invaluable lessons and expert advice. Not only does it help Millennials to start to hone their leadership skills, it provides them with a role model and trusted advisor who they can turn to.
Now here’s the thing – Millennials are a bit of a contradiction! They crave both independence and instruction, although they’re not always forthcoming about voicing their need for the latter. They want to impress their managers, so they don’t always ask for help when they need it for fear that they’ll be viewed as being unqualified. The key is finding the balance between giving them instruction and letting them figure things out on their own. One thing is for sure, Millennials are always up for a challenge. When they feel trusted and know they have the support of the leadership team, they’ll often outperform expectations.
At the heart of it, leadership is becoming more human. We’re starting to see trends in people first leadership and companies are now striving for more diverse and inclusive workplaces. Millennials refuse to be a statistic – a worker who comes in, does their job and leaves, and they’re taking this philosophy with them as they become leaders. They are changing the way we approach work for the better.
Ashira Prossack is a Millennial & Gen Z engagement expert and speaker working to bridge the gap between generations and prepare businesses for the future of work.
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