Times are changing—can you say the same about your ability to lead? Technology has enabled new ways of working, and Millennials (those born in the 1980s and 1990s) bring never-before-seen work expectations into the office. With that combination, leaders have no choice but to evolve to remain influential.
By 2025, Millennials will comprise 75 percent of the global workforce. A vast majority of these Millennials want to work for leaders who foster innovative thinking, are focused on team development, and have a mission that positively contributes to society.
More than previous generations, Millennials are ready to work independently if their needs go unmet by existing leaders. This new era of workers will require a new era of leaders to rise. The leaders who are up for the challenge of adapting to today’s shifting demands will garner a true lasting legacy.
Eighty-nine percent of Millennials prefer to choose when and where they work rather than being placed in a 9-to-5 position. The emerging generations have a knack for adaptability because they grew up (and are still growing up) in a turbulent and ever-changing high-tech culture. They expect and thrive in change. One of the most essential next-generation leadership skills will be agility. Leaders who achieve agility in their thinking, skill development, and communication styles will thrive tomorrow.
Millennials are interested in reverse mentoring, flatter organizations, and flexible work schedules, which all fly in the face of traditional work culture. It’ll take leadership agility to adapt to this new wave of work. Technology driven by Millennials will spur a shift to remote and project-based work. Agile leaders will find new ways to lead across generations, time zones, and cyberspace to ensure they can move their organizations forward. The more agile your thinking becomes, the faster you can overcome the never-before-seen obstacles of tomorrow.
Just as athletes achieve physical agility through rigid daily routines, internal commitment, and pushing themselves, so too must next-generation leaders who want to achieve comparable agility in their leadership. Establish routines that stretch you as a leader, make an internal commitment to embrace change, remain curious, and push yourself outside your established, legacy thinking.
Growing up bombarded by advertisements and breaking news of unethical leaders and athletes, Millennials have developed an acute sense for detecting unauthentic people and messages. In today’s digital age, Millennials value and practice transparency, and they demand that their leaders mirror that transparency.
Strong leaders find common ground and connect on a personal level with those they lead. That takes authenticity. It’s said we do business with those we know, like, and trust. It’s no different with those we choose to follow. It used to be the only way to build that familiarity and trust was with a firm handshake, eye contact, and a sharp appearance. Now trust can be built online, where many times Google is the first handshake.
In today’s hypertransparent, digital world, context rules. The social web allows for the amplification of one’s personal brand, which is a remarkable asset for today’s leaders. Leaders can digitally share their knowledge to create credibility, share their stories to create connection, and share their passions to create common ground. Next-generation leaders will have to create authenticity to cultivate deeper connections online and offline.
Invest in your personal brand. Use the web (social media, blog, or podcast) to establish yourself as a thought leader and share more of the real you. Video is also a powerful tool that allows others to really experience the real you. Allowing followers a peek behind the scenes fosters loyalty and trust. Authenticity earns authority. Be authentic.
The web is bursting at the seams with information, inundating any user that ventures onto its pages. Google became a global powerhouse and a staple of society for doing one thing well: curating information.
Just like Google, next-generation leaders must become skilled curators—of resources. Assembling resources such as relevant information, tools, and talent will be the key to leadership tomorrow. With today’s inundation of information and options, Millennials will look to leaders who can assemble the right resources to execute the job most effectively.
Have you assembled useful tools to allow for effective execution? Or the relevant information that empowers teams to make quick decisions? Or the right team members to complement each other?
A big component of assembling resources is finding the right human capital. Assembling the right talent means identifying true strengths. It’s harder than ever before to be a Jack of All Trades in today’s ever-changing marketplace. At best, a well-rounded person can be good at many things but great at nothing. Laser-sharp skills are significant. The best leaders aren’t well rounded, but rather the teams they create are well rounded because each offers a complementary sharpness. Assembling the right team is essential.
Despite the economic downturn and living in their parents’ basement, the Millennials remain one of the most optimistic generations. Thirty-nine percent of Millennials want to have an impact on the world with their jobs. They won’t tolerate leaders who shift blame or have a bleak vision of the future. Tomorrow’s leaders must aspire to be influencers.
A leader’s aspiration for a better tomorrow is demonstrated by his or her mindset. A positive, forward-thinking attitude is essential in enlisting the hearts and minds of the next generation. Secondly, a leader’s aspiration for a better tomorrow is demonstrated by investment in future leaders. In order for great leadership to extend beyond generations, we have to be intentional about sharing our expertise, experience, and expectations. After all, the hallmark of a great leader is how many leaders he helps grow beyond him.
Next-generation leaders must first harness hope, then hand over hope. To create and maintain a healthy, hopeful perspective, a leader must establish a constant flow of positive input. Tap into books, blogs, conferences, mentors, and podcasts. An unshakeable aspiration for a better tomorrow is essential for effective next-generation leadership.
Ninety-five percent of Millennials are motivated to work harder when they know where their work is going. Millennials aren’t that complicated. They just want to know the “why” behind everything. However, the “why” is what’s complicated. “Why do I have to show up at 9 am?” “Why do I have to put down my smartphone?” “Why should I continue to follow you?” Leading the next generation takes clearly articulating the whys behind expectations, rules, projects, and job descriptions.
Dave Ramsey said it best: “To be unclear, is unkind.” How many times have you lacked clarity after a meeting? Clarity reigns in a cluttered world. Less is truly more in our information-overloaded and content-saturated culture. Leaders are responsible for articulating tasks, expectations, and the organization’s vision with the utmost clarity.
However, creating clarity and articulating with clarity is hard work. Have you ever tried to write a mission statement? Tough stuff. Clear articulation starts with a firm understanding. Albert Einstein said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” Invest the time needed to ensure you have a firm understanding of the messages you’re trying to articulate.
Once you gain clarity as the leader, articulate that clarity to your team as if there was more competing for their attention than ever before (because there is). Clear and concise articulation leads to precise understanding.
It’s more difficult than ever to get the attention of a generation that has instant access to the world’s information and every viral cat video on the web. The key is surprise. Surprise is working wonders for marketers trying to reach Millennials, and it can work for leaders, too. Amaze your followers by being unexpected, untraditional, wacky, and off-the-wall.
Think about the last time you were amazed. Perhaps it was during a movie, watching a street magician, hearing breaking news, or experiencing something new for the first time. You were fascinated. Your focus couldn’t be broken, and the experience was memorable.
Ninety percent of Millennials want their workplaces to be social and fun. Here are a few examples of organizations and leaders embracing amazement:
- Square hosts an annual employee competition that includes a game of human foosball.
- Tony Hsieh of Zappos will randomly bring a llama into the office.
- Airbnb encourages employees to take a week of paid vacation every year.
Updating dated work policies, creating one-of-a-kind team experiences, and offering unexpected work perks have all been proven to amaze, which results in increased engagement and loyalty.
Leadership is on the ropes as a new breed of worker is claiming a majority of the workplace. Bring your A-game to this new leadership arena so that you can boldly attack tomorrow.
Ryan Jenkins is an internationally recognized Millennial keynote speaker and author. He equips organizations and leaders with the next-generation leadership, communication, and branding skills needed to thrive in today’s multigenerational marketplace. Connect with him online.