I will be honest – it took me a while to catch on to the fact that the title millennial was referring to me and my peers.
Until I really took the time to step back and consider how differently (and why) my generation worked and related to leadership, I saw my steps into the professional world as just more cogs turning in the business machine.
But after a few years of working in a variety of environments, I am beginning to understand how different we twenty/early thirty somethings really are.
There is much talk about how to encourage leadership in millennials, what millennials need to succeed, how millennials will lead, etc. However, until my generation of twenty/thirty somethings is able to learn from our predecessors, we won’t be able to advance and begin to fill their shoes! Young professionals such as myself need good leaders to look up to learn from, and our leaders need to be in tune with how our millennial minds work.
Leaders, This Is What We Need
- Tear Down The Walls – My generation is all about breaking down barriers (hence hacking, startups, file sharing, open-sourcing, etc.). In order for our leaders to reach us and help bring out the best in us, we need to feel a strong sense of camaraderie: the we’re in this together kind. We do not inherently respect authority, and need a personal relationship to really look up to someone. We need to feel empowered to approach problems from a wide variety (and often untraditional) perspectives. We need to feel a sense of openness (think communal office spaces and coffee-break brainstorming).
- Put Those Walls Up – I know this seems to contradict my previous point, but it doesn’t! We recognize that too much freedom leads to chaos, and we do need structure to our lives. We need to feel free to express ourselves and experiment within the boundaries of clear goals and objectives. It is easy for us to get distracted (we grew up in the information age after all), so by giving us clear and definitive targets, you will help us to know when we are on the right track (consider a sonnet – a form that requires a tremendous amount of structure but can ignite unprecedented creativity!). Give us that structure, that framework, but be flexible and remember that rules are only effective when they push us to grow.
- Treat Us Like Future Leaders – That means we need you to relate to us as not only employees, but future leaders. You need to communicate with us that you see how much potential we have to grow. You need to invest in helping us outgrow our current positions and communicating with us how that can be accomplished. Please check in with us regularly – we are not always the best at expressing ourselves (we have been tainted by email, texting, and could stand to learn a thing or two from you about face-to-face communication) – and help us develop a trajectory for our professional lives.
- Help Us Stick To Our Guns – With so many options in the world available to us at every moment of the day, we need your leadership. Though we tend to have great ideas and tons of passion, we often get stuck when a concrete decision needs to be made. This is where you come in – help us learn to be decisive, and to defend our decisions when necessary (as a new mom, I find myself constantly googling baby advice and second guessing myself – don’t let us do this with our careers!).
- Believe In Us – Despite how much confidence we exude, how much creativity we possess, and how nonchalant we may seem, we are perhaps the most self-critical, unconfident generation yet. I am not a psychologist and do not understand all of the nuances of this reality, but I can see how much my peers (and sometimes myself!) need older generations of leaders to help us access and activate our potential. We should not be coddled, or considered too delicate for criticism, but we do need your confidence to help build our own. This confidence and clarity of purpose is something we admire most about you, our leaders.
No matter what business you are in, there’s no avoiding us millennials! We are here to stay, but we need YOU to help prepare us to one day (not too soon!) fill your shoes and usher in the next generation of future leaders.