Leadership Secrets of the Millennial Generation

Conventional wisdom has settled on the defining qualities of that generation of Americans who were born in 1980 or later and came of age after the turn of the 21st century.

Millennials, as they are known, feel entitled, are impatient to succeed, possess inadequate communication skills and are emotionally isolated because of their lifelong attachment to technology.

So goes the cliché.

Wise executives don’t conduct business or make hires based on a cliché. A business leader judges the capabilities and potential of an individual employee based on age and experience alone at his or her peril.

Millennials are young, yes. But, as one of that generation’s shining lights once wrote, “I’m young, scrappy and hungry, and I am not throwing away my shot!”

That would be Lin-Manuel Miranda, composer and star of Broadway hits Hamilton and In the Heights, which both won the Tony Award for Best Musical. Miranda was born in 1980, which places him at the early end of the Millennial Generation.

His drive, talent and leadership ability are a testimony to the potential of that much-scrutinized group of people. Miranda’s emergence as a leading voice in the arts and entertainment world was a harbinger of the coming wave of Millennials in leadership roles.

And how will they lead? What will shape their leadership styles, their leadership philosophies?

A recent survey conducted by research company The Conference Board and leadership developer DDI attempted to shed light on the leadership lessons the business world can learn from Millennials. The survey, “Divergent Views/Common Ground: The Leadership Perspectives of C-Suite Executives and Millennial Leaders,” revealed a number of discoveries that refuted the cliché of the entitled, impatient Millennial.

The indicators of potential Millennial leadership style included:

Millennials are more loyal than expected. Almost half of Millennials in business (44%) intend to remain at their current job for 15 years or longer. That is significantly greater than the 29% of their elders who anticipate that kind of professional longevity. What that means is that Millennials, rather than being the job-hopping climbers they were perceived as being, come into their jobs committed to make it work over the long haul.

Millennials value flexibility and mobility ahead of “fun” on the job. When asked to rank priorities in the workplace, Millennials stated a clear preference for flex hours, off-site working arrangements and liberal vacation benefits. They didn’t care as much about perks that are perceived as “modern” workplace amenities, such as open floor plans, little clear hierarchy, team building activities or access to snacks and other perks.

Millennials value interpersonal skills ahead of critical thinking and stakeholder management. A well-rounded, culturally aware manager will be better received by Millennial workers, according to the survey. Rather than a didactic approach to leadership, Millennials will lead by example and the application of empathy. In other words, they will see their employees as fellow human beings, rather than cogs in the machine of business.

The conclusion? Millennials are committed to efficient, thoughtful leadership combined with hard work and a dedication to innovation. They also will take into account the importance of a fulfilling personal life outside of work as the foundation for an effective employee.

That, in turn, could be better for business in the long term. After all, today’s Millennial leaders are tomorrow’s CEOs.

Notable Millennial Leaders

Chelsea Clinton (Born 1980) – Political activist

Daniel Ek (1983) – Spotify founder

Christopher Gray (1990) — Scholly founder

Elizabeth Holmes (1984) – Entrepreneur, inventor

David Karp (1986) – Tumblr founder

Tamika Mallory (1980) – Political activist

Andrew Mason (1980) – Groupon founder

Lin-Manuel Miranda (1980) – Composer, actor

Bobby Murphy (1988)– Snapchat co-founder

Blake Ross (1985) – Mozilla Firefox creator

Evan Spiegel (1990) – Snapchat co-founder

Ivanka Trump (1981) – Assistant to the president

Katy Tur (1983) – Political TV reporter

Emma Watson (1990) – Actor, human rights advocate

Prince William (1982) – Heir to the British crown

Malala Yousafzai (1997) – Human rights advocate

John Zimmer (1984) – Lyft founder

Mark Zuckerberg (1984) – Facebook founder 

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