Millennials and New-Style Leadership

By 2020, more than half of the workforce will be Millennials (Present age around 24-34). Millennials build relationships and view their career paths differently than us ‘older folks’. I often hear the frustrations of employers that struggle to connect with their younger teammates. Forbes remarks that Millennials are impatient, collaborative, and have something to prove (Forbes, 2014). So it’s not surprising that many traditional leaders interpret Millennials as being irreverent, fickle, and egotistical. Finding meaningful leadership language is important to getting the best out of your best teammates … so here are some tips for providing what I will call “newstyle” leadership in the Millennial landscape. If you are a Millennial, I would be happy to have your feedback in the comments below. If you want to lead Millennials:

  1. Give Credit & Share Blame: Newstyle leaders are less concerned with awards and more concerned with influence. Approval isn’t measured in plaques and trophies as much as it used to be. Now it’s measured in Followers and Likes. This is influencing leadership by shifting values toward more team-oriented expressions of accountability. So help your team carry the blame in case of a loss, and be sure to spread the credit for a win as far as you reasonably can.

  2. Develop Your EQ: Emotional Intelligence is both a talent and a skill! It can be learned. The limbic system in the brain connects with others around us subconsciously, and some people are naturally good at being able to interpret and steer both their own emotions and the emotional environment around them. Newstyle leadership is shifting toward being able to steer the room using conscious limbic disciplines rather than just fancy words and inspirational posters.

  3. Develop Their SQ: Spiritual Intelligence is the new EQ. For the last 30 years or so, SQ has been studied and is now becoming mainstream business theory due to its effect on performance and business outcomes. Newstyle leadership not only tolerates, but encourages meaningful spiritual connections between employees and their work. Pluralism and personal vision are as important as KPIs now if you want to maximise human capital in your organization.

  4. Collaboration: Egalitarian forms of leadership are growing in popularity and strength. ‘Big Man Desks’ are being replaced with round tables and informal gathering rooms. With hierarchies lowering their power distances in organizations, newstyle leaders tend toward both collective decision making and collective execution.

  5. Diversify Your Input: Google has taught us all just how much we don’t know! There’s so much available information that any leader can’t possibly know everything about anything anymore. Newstyle leaders recognize that quality of information in decision making is most efficiently achieved by strategically diversifying their sources of input. Invite new voices and see what happens to the number of options you have to choose from. Lone wolf decision makers are viewed as weak and ignorant by Millennials.

  6. Sleep, Water, and Exercise: Newstyle leaders take a more holistic view of their body and mind. Small influences like water, sleep, and exercise can all have a dramatic effect on your quality of thought and decision making. Millennials don’t brag about working 16 hour days with no time for the gym or a social life. Newstyle leaders hear workaholic bragging as a red flag.

  7. Liminality: Newstyle leaders understand that most Millennials will have 3 or more distinct careers in their lives. They tap into this creativity by remaining aware of the temporariness of each and every employment engagement. Millennials will remain with you for as long as they are challenged, learning, developing, and feel connected with their work. Eventually, almost all of them will move on to a new expression of vocation. Make sure that they emerge from your organization as a powerful ambassador for your organization’s corporate culture.

  8. 24/7 Worklife: I know I said above that you shouldn’t work 16 hours a day, so bear with me here … Newstyle leaders know that there is no real ‘workweek’. Social media and entertainment creep into the traditional work day, and work-related inspiration and innovations creep into what used to be considered our ‘private lives’. In the information age, newstyle leaders tap into holistic work-life as a resource rather than a distraction by having flexible attendance when possible, and an always-on communication environment established with their team. Hint: I use Whatsapp.

I know that much of this will be counter-intuitive to many of you, so if you would like clarification, training, or other help in this area, please feel free to contact me. There are a lot of management consultants around, but very few leadership experts. And if you’re a Millennial, please note that these are generalizations of your age group, and not intended to define you personally. If you have any comments, I invite your collaboration below. 😉


Forbes, 2014.