At 80 million strong, the Millennial generation is the biggest generation since the Baby Boomers. And, with the oldest of the group in their early- to mid-30s, many are beginning to transition into significant leadership roles.
According to the 2014 Hartford Millennial Leadership Survey, 34% of Millennials identify themselves as business leaders, and 59% aspire to be business leaders within the next five years. And there are many factors that point toward this generation being successful in their endeavors.
Data from the Pew Research Center shows that one-third of Millennials have a four-year college degree, making them the most educated generation yet. A relentless drive to learn new skills and stay up to date with the latest developments across a wide range of interests are key characteristics of this generation—and they’re also key characteristics of great leaders.
They’re tech savvy.
The Millennial generation came of age side-by-side with the proliferation of the internet and many other world-uniting advances in technology. They’re social media savvy, vocal proponents of the latest smart tech, and expect their worlds to be “on demand.” In fact, a recent Nielsen study found that Millennials ranked “technology use” as the most defining feature of their generation. They’re innovative thinkers and early adopters, which is an important part of successful leadership.
Forty-three percent of adult Millennials are “non-white,” making them the most racially diverse generation ever (Pew). And according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 25% speak a language other than English at home. It’s that diversity that will drive many of their decisions, which can help create workplaces that are more inclusive and celebratory of the different points of view every player brings to the table.
They’re purpose driven.
According to the 2015 Deloitte Millennial Survey, 75% of Millennials believe businesses are too focused on their own agendas rather than working to make a difference in society. In fact, the survey also showed that 60% say a sense of purpose is a major reason they chose their current employer. Millennials want to know the work they do is meaningful. As leaders, they will seek to champion purpose-driven initiatives and support more cause-driven policies and procedures.
But, there are still plenty of lessons to be learned
Although there are many encouraging signs the Millennial generation of leaders will be an influential driving force in the business world, making the most of their unique strengths will require learning a few important lessons along the way. Millennial leaders must:
- Be humble
Millennials are a confident generation. And although confidence is an important part of great leadership, the line between confidence and entitlement can be razor thin. There are going to be times when they won’t get what they want and will need to learn how to address it, accept it, and move forward. Additionally, it’s important for Millennials to not only remember that they will fail, but also that it’s okay to ask for help. They can’t be too proud to ask for feedback from older generations or embrace ideas from younger generations—and they must learn to do it earnestly.
- Learn how to listen
Legendary news journalist and interviewer Larry King said it best: “I remind myself every morning—nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.” One of the most valuable skills a Millennial leader must master is the ability to listen, and that doesn’t mean simply waiting for their turn to talk. In order to build strong working relationships, it’s vital they learn how to listen with the intent to understand.
- Find a mentor
According to a study by the American Society of Training and Development, 75% of executives said mentoring was directly related to their success. Mentorship is a time-honored tradition and an important part of becoming a well-rounded leader. What better way to learn about the principles of great leadership than from a seasoned veteran who has already survived the journey Millennials are just beginning to take?
- Empower the next generation
Think about some of the clichés that get attached to the Millennial generation—entitled, materialistic, high-maintenance, narcissists … the list goes on and on. If you’re a Millennial, you’ve likely heard them all. But here’s some insight to put it in perspective: older generations have been characterizing subsequent generations the exact same way for decades—just check out this great article on the topic from TheWire.com. Instead of following the same trends, Millennial leaders must make it a point to empower the next generation. Just as they would look to a mentor for guidance, they should also be a mentor to younger rising stars.
Time will tell what the Millennial leaders’ most significant impact on the workforce will be, but there’s plenty of reasons to be positive about the future.
What do you think are Millennials’ greatest assets? What are their greatest challenges? Let us know in the comments section below.