As this new generation floods the work place over the next 10 years, it is time to take stock of our own leadership style and ask … Am I the type of leader Millennials will follow?
After working closely with Millennials for the past 12 years, I prefer to focus on strengths not differences. I find them to be the change agents that organizations crave. They have a fresh set of eyes on our processes. They also bring engagement, enthusiasm, innovation and creativity not to mention technical prowess.
However, you’ve probably heard the millennial generation described as lazy, entitled, and narcissistic with a poor work ethic. I don’t believe those adjectives are true. These stereotypes are the result of a lot of media hype. They are damaging not only to Millennials but also reinforce negative feelings for those who lead them. I think those descriptions have less to do with Millennials’ work ethic and more to do with our work environment.
So how do you lead Millennials?
This 4-part blog series touches on some of the leadership traits they value. We are living – and working – in a time where this new generation of workers desire transparency, authenticity, and vulnerability. No longer is control and command or consensus the desired leadership style. Collaboration is what we must create within our corporate cultures.
Transparency is the first of three qualities both leaders and corporate culture need to possess to effectively lead a Millennial workforce.
Millennials are marred by the world’s financial and ethical downfalls they witnessed as they grew up. The financial ruin of so many lives because of the unethical leaders of Enron and the inability to trust Wall Street as the housing market came crashing down are just two of the events that shape Millennials’ consciousness. They watched their parents lose their jobs, and are coming out of college with an exorbitant amount of student debt. According to Market Watch, the $1.3 trillion student loan debt clock rises by $2,726 per second.
Millennials don’t want the “spin.”
Millennials don’t want to hear the CEO say that the quarterly earnings report is showing a profit, when the only way to get that is to lay off personnel so they can report better numbers. “Spin” has burned Millennials for most of their lives. They don’t automatically trust that the words we say as leaders are truthful. Everything has the potential to be spin, and spin equals dishonesty in their eyes. They want someone they can trust and who is upfront, even with the bad news.
Contrary to popular belief, they don’t need everything sugar-coated. Forthright communication is what they are craving. Transparency is a foundational cornerstone to trust.
The Washington Post reported that 71% of Millennials preferred Bernie Sanders to Hillary Clinton. On March 10, 2015, when Hillary Clinton refused to release her much-discussed emails from her personal computer server, Millennials felt they could not trust her. By not sharing, she was perceived as hiding something and, therefore, not transparent. Whether she had anything to hide or not is irrelevant in their minds.
As you look at the way you lead, consider if you are transparent and how Millennials will react to you as a leader. In part 2 of this series, we will look at authenticity and how it shapes the Future @ Work.