Millennials, you are set to fill in the leadership gap left by retiring Baby Boomers. More than a quarter of Millennials in the workforce will be promoted to managerial positions in the next year. Some fear these stats, claiming your generation is less hardworking, more resistant to working with others, and harder to keep happy than your older counterparts. Not the qualities of great management and leadership.
These are the worst sort of stereotypes leveled against Millennials. But a slight change of perspective casts light on the truth of the situation: The greatest perceived weaknesses of Millennials are the very things that will make your age group an exceptional cohort of leaders. While there is a ring of truth to the complaints made about the workforce’s youngest generation, Generation Y will become successful leaders in every industry because of the very traits so many consider flaws.
You Prefer Regular Feedback
This seems to be true. Survey after survey from managers report Millennial workers need more feedback than Gen X and Baby Boomers. Many companies now provide work evaluations twice as often as they did before because it benefits their younger employees.
A positive characteristic of great leaders is the ability to receive comments from those they lead. Say you work in Palo Alto as a web developer managing a team of workers across Silicon Valley with various skills and jobs, from graphic designers to programmers. You will not necessarily understand every detail of every task your team is put to. You will need to rely on the people you manage to let you know when, for instance, something about the plan you’ve implemented for them simply isn’t working.
If Millennials gladly accept feedback on their performance and leadership style, you are well-suited to the task of hearing out your team members. Employees who can honestly voice their opinions to a manager are more likely to be satisfied with their work and less afraid to point out weaknesses in leadership when needed.
You Tend to Think You Know Best
Millennials are reportedly very confident. Maybe overconfident. This could lead to trouble if you don’t know what you are doing, but it could also make you an incredibly self-sufficient employee. Stats show Millennials are less likely to call IT with a technological problem– you figure it out for yourself. You mine the internet for information you need before taking someone else’s time to ask a question.
Decisiveness is one of the best qualities of a good leader. And it doesn’t just mean quick decision-making– decisiveness is all about making thoughtful decisions with good outcomes in a timely manner. You don’t always have time to call your superiors when it comes down to making a choice for the team you lead. For instance, if you are a user experience designer leading the design for a new app, is it better to constantly check in with your supervisor to ask questions about the next step in the process or lead your team boldly forward toward the intended goal? Especially in fast-paced industries, you are an asset to your company if you can move your crew confidently toward the end goal.
You Don’t Mind Sharing Your Life
Nothing is tied to Millennials more tightly than social media. Coming of age at the dawning of social media may make you more likely to share your personal or professional life than your parent’s generation. A good word for this tendency is transparency. And transparency is crucial if you want to become a solid leader.
Transparency doesn’t mean sharing every detail of your personal problems with those you manage. It does mean being honest when you are frustrated with the task at hand, when you have a great new idea, or when you are concerned about something in your team culture. For example, the Millennial leader is more willing to share what didn’t work for them as a professional so those they mentor can avoid similar pitfalls. The ability to move within a personal economy will make you more empathetic and more in-tune with the needs of your team as you lead them toward your joint goals.
You Need to Really Care About Your Work
This idea really mystifies Millennials when put to them as a criticism. Who wouldn’t want to care about their work? Said another way, the complaint is that Millennials are hard to motivate unless they feel passionately about the task at hand.
Everyone knows every job requires duties that are less than thrilling to perform. Too much of these tasks will drag down morale for anyone, regardless of their age. If you as a Millennial truly have an aversion to what seems mundane or too far apart from your skills and passions, this will translate into making the work you assign to others rich with purpose.
Maybe you are a copywriter and it really burns you when you have to use your talents to write on subjects that don’t particularly matter to you. The team of writers who work under you likely feel the same way. If you know this, as a leader, you can make sure their work remains engaging and maximizes their abilities as copywriters. You can apply the desire to see your own gifts used to their fullest potential to benefit your workers.
If you are a Millennial in leadership or working toward a management position thinking, “How can I improve my career as a Millennial?” you can have more confidence in who you are already. Prepare yourself to take on your role as a leader by embracing the honesty, confidence, transparency, and passion of your generation.
Photo credit: ITU/Rowan Farrell