Carolyn Fore, PhD

Oct 042013

Millennial leaders are passionate about their work and their commitment to social consciousness. They often describe leaders as individuals who care about others and give back to their community. Leadership is about others and the greater good, not personal interests, in the view of Millennial leaders. The terms selfless and servant leader are often mentioned when Millennials talk about leadership.

Millennial leaders admire leaders who have social interests and respect for others more so than those who are successful for what they have accomplished. Different aspects of social consciousness that are important to this generation of leaders are

  • volunteerism on a local level,
  • global efforts for fund raising and volunteerism,
  • mentoring youth,
  • servant leadership, and
  • developing young leaders.

Millennial leaders want to take social responsibility and to work for companies where they feel there is a social consciousness. As leaders, they are aware of ensuring their personal time and their organization’s resources give a fair share to volunteer efforts and serving their community, locally or globally.

Aug 292013

Many Millennials are working in organizations with Veterans, who lead with their traditional command-and-control style, and Baby Boomers, with their consensus leadership approach. The Millennial generation has entered the workforce following the practical, innovative, change-oriented Generation X cohort, which is known for respecting knowledge over authority. The leadership styles of Generation X and Millennials fit well with the emerging need of organizations to have leadership that connects, collaborates, and is driven by purpose to provide the organization with a common cause.

Millennials have a unique leadership style which is more collaborative and inclusive than previous generations. Millennial leaders are an emerging group of leaders who will be influential in organizations in the future. Millennial leaders prefer to share responsibility, using a participative style of leadership and relying on their ability to network and their experience with technology, such as social media, to enhance this capability. Their strong moral values provide the basis for their trust in others, the importance of honesty, their desire to do the right thing, and their reasons for caring about others. At the same time, they are innovative and creative in ways of looking at work and passionate about what they believe in and want to work on. Work-life balance has a new balance with Millennials, putting family and friends first, especially for the leaders who are concerned about making time for all of their activities.

Millennial leaders recognize that they need to learn more about leadership in order to be the great leaders they strive to be. Their preferred methods of learning leadership skills are continuous learning through mentoring and training that includes hands-on experiences with guidance from experienced leaders. So, what can these leaders learn from older leader in the workforce who represent other generations?

From the Veterans who are still in the workforce, Millennials can learn the value of hard work and patience. Millennials can learn that when communicating with this older generation they should be more formal and respectful because that’s what works for them and will get better results. Baby Boomers share the optimistic view of Millennials while also having a team oriented, consensus building approach. Millennials will learn negotiation skills by watching this generation’s team building skills. Generation X is similar to the Millennial generation in their familiarity with technology and diversity but known for their self reliance and adaptability. Gen Xers frequently become the change agents of their organizations.

As organizations prepare for the advancement of more leaders from the Millennial generational cohort, the current leaders can expect to see more demands for work-life balance; flatter, more participative teams; and leaders who challenge higher levels in the organization to consider their creative, innovative ideas. Millennial leaders will continue to work only with companies where they feel valued, sense that there is honesty and trust, observe that leaders keep their commitments, and note that social responsibility is one of the goals.

As the Millennial leaders take on more leadership roles, the autocratic Veterans are moving out of the workforce and their type of leadership is also being replaced. The democratic Baby Boomers are starting to retire but still have a significant influence on this next generation of leaders as they develop as leaders. The challenging, information-based, collaborative Generation X will be working together with Millennials and competing for many of the same positions. Although both generations are collaborative and comfortable with technology, Millennials are using networking and social media for information gathering and collaboration to give them an advantage as leaders. Millennial leaders exhibit the characteristics of their destiny as a hero generation as demonstrated by the Millennial generation’s leaders’ optimistic outlook on life and their passion to make the world a better place for others.

The important realization is that there are generational differences that are not good or bad, they just exist. The strengths of each generation are not being recognized and leveraged in most organizations. The real rewards are when you figure out how to use the strengths of one generation to offset the weaknesses of another and when the individuals from different generations are willing to work together to understand and learn from each other.

Jul 312013

Millennial leaders are different from leaders of previous generations. Their use of technology and social media to access both information and their peers has made them unique in their ability to be more collaborative and inclusive than any prior generation. However, what makes them unique as leaders is not simply their extensive use of technology. It is the combination of leadership characteristics that are important to these Millennial leaders. By talking to Millennial leaders, I found that the following characteristics are key components of their leadership style.

  1. Passion – Millennial leaders stress the importance of passion in being able to motivate and inspire others. They feel that leaders must be passionate about their goals, their organizations, and the people they are leading.
  2. Trust – Millennial leaders emphatically believe they need to be able to trust their leaders and that it is equally as important that leaders must be able to trust their followers.
  3. Social consciousness – Millennial leaders feel it is important to ensure their personal time and their organizations’ resources give a fair share to volunteer efforts and serving their community, locally or globally.
  4. Collaboration – This is a characteristic of Millennial leaders and of their generational cohort in part because of the availability of technology during their lifetimes. As leaders, Millennials rely on the skills they have learned for information gathering, which includes getting the views of their peers, their mentors, and more experienced leaders. Millennial leaders are generally more accustomed to consolidating facts and ideas that emerge from a group rather than creating an individual work effort.
  5. Doing the right thing – Millennial leaders believe it is important for leaders to do the right thing. Since leaders provide examples to others through their behavior, it is very important that the leader’s behavior exemplify the expectations of good leaders.
  6. Doing what they say – Millennial leaders believe that being a good leader means leading by example which requires that leaders keep their commitments, are willing to do the things they talk about doing, and leaders show followers how to make good choices.
  7. Continuous learning – Millennial leaders recognize that they are inexperienced and still growing and developing as leaders. They look for opportunities for leadership training and mentors to assist with their leadership development.
Jun 302013

There has been so much talk generated by Sheryl Sandberg’s book and her discussion of the need for women to Lean In. She presents some great thoughts in her book. As a Baby Boomer, I strongly feel that I did my best to help pave the way for the women of future generations to have better opportunities and true equality in the workforce.

While I didn’t have jobs with the visibility Sheryl had or meet people who were quite as well known, I can relate to her experiences and could write many stories of times when I was faced with similar challenges. With that in mind, I love seeing her advise women of today to lean in, sit at the table, take risks, challenge ourselves, and ask for promotions. There are a lot of women advancing through corporate America who can benefit greatly from her shared experience and wisdom.

However, I also look at how the workforce of today is changing and think Millennial women who are just starting their careers have a lot different challenges and are really concerned with different issues from the women who entered the workforce before them. There are currently more women graduating from college than men. This means there are more women competing for those college graduate entry level jobs than men. There are also more Millennial women in management positions than Millennial men. This is a major shift starting with the younger workers in the organization. Women are working for women and with women as peers. There is more acceptance of the way women think and act as leaders because there are so many more of them successfully leading teams, departments, organizations, and even major companies. The days of only one woman sitting at the table with the men are disappearing so that now a woman in a leadership role doesn’t feel like she has to represent the rest of the women in the company, fight off self-doubt about being there, or feel like she should apologize for being in the room. Millennial women in the workforce have a lot of opportunity ahead and many seem prepared and ready to get started. I hope they will take the lessons from the women who went before them and use the creativity their generation is known for to do some great things in the future.

May 302013

I’ve read a lot of articles and heard a lot of talk about Millennials that characterize this generation as self-centered and use a lot of different ways to say Millennials aren’t very motivated to do anything that isn’t about themselves. I must admit that I spend a lot of my time speaking to leaders in this age group and I see a lot of similarities to every other generational group as they finished college and entered the workforce in this area. In fact, if they are different, I would like to call on the data to remind those who are looking at Millennials negatively that this is the best educated generation ever to enter the job market and they are searching for jobs in one of the most competitive markets of all times.

When I talk to Millennial leaders, passion and inspiration are words often used. This is a passionate group who like to be inspired and inspire each other to take action. They definitely inspire me. Millennials are doing things I never dreamed of doing when I was in my twenties – like starting companies, building foundations, raising funds to help each other or charities they are passionate about, writing books, creating movies, etc. I am in awe when I realize I’ve had an entire career and now I am at the point of trying to do some of the same things these young people are doing. Of course, I have a lot more experience to draw on but they are smart enough to realize they can engage people like me as mentors to help them make up for that shortage of experience.

I really don’t like reading negative articles about the Me Generation the Millennials have turned into because every time I have lunch with an awesome Millennial who wants to conquer the world, I want to charge down that path with them and help conquer the word together.

Apr 292013

One of the things Millennials are recognized for is their collaborative way of doing things.  This is a result of several things that influenced them as they were growing up.  For example, they were taught to work together on teams in school.  In addition, they have the communications tools to stay in touch and get the opinions of people they trust and/or respect even when they aren’t nearby. So it makes sense that Millennials collect information and opinions from others when making decisions. The result of this can be much better informed decisions. These decisions may not be as instantaneous or independent as the decisions of someone who is older and didn’t have the benefit of this type of information gathering might want them to be, but I believe the result is better decisions because of the extra thought and knowledge that goes into making the decisions.

A byproduct of this is the inclusiveness that comes out of it. When we don’t operate so independently we stay in touch with the people we value for their friendship, their knowledge, their decision-making capabilities, and their unique gifts – each for what they bring to the relationship. It helps show acceptance of the worth of each person you know for the special gifts they bring to the relationship. The result of offering inclusion and acceptance of others in a collaborative society is powerful.

It highlights another generational shift in moving away from a competitive environment where the thinking was to get the best results by having everyone work independently to come up with the best result knowing you had to be smarter, faster, and better than everyone else. That was considered the way to generate the best ideas. The Millennial generation creates innovative new ideas by working collaboratively sharing thoughts to come up with the best ideas when they put their thought together collectively. It is so much more congenial.

Apr 042013

There is a lot of talk about Millennials and what they are doing. A lot of the talk is negative. A lot of the talk is about what their parents have done to make them this way. Last night I was on my way home and heard an earful of this on talk radio. That was the topic of the show and people from different age groups were calling in giving their views. And that’s exactly what they were, their views. You know the saying, perception is reality. I have my own view that there are some outstanding individuals and some real losers in every age group and I’m not going into it right now. However, my dissertation research was on Millennial leaders and I will say there are some amazing leaders in the Millennial group. I would like to point out some things worth knowing about these leaders.

  1. They are passionate.
  2. They value trust.
  3. Work-life is important to them and different from what you think it is if you aren’t a Millennial.
  4. Creativity and innovation are important.
  5. Social responsibility is important to them.
  6. They expect to have mentors and they value their input.
  7. They expect leaders to do the right thing whether those leaders are their generation or older.
  8. Family and friends are important to them; yes, more important than work.
  9. Technology is part of their lives so they don’t really see it as technology, it’s just life.
  10. The same is true of diversity.
  11. They recognize they have a lot to learn.

OK, I realize I couldn’t stop at 10 and made it 11 things. I just have that much to say about Millennial leaders. I think as they start having a greater impact on organizations, we will see a lot of things start to change in a positive way. They are known as the most optimistic generation ever and as a Baby Boomer (the most optimistic generation prior to the Millennials taking our place), I am optimistic about the future.

Mar 132013

With all of the talk about four generations in the workforce and the fact that we have an “aging” workforce now that so many people are living longer and working longer, it’s interesting to look at some of the numbers.

What does it mean to say we have an aging workforce?

  • There are few Veterans (those over age 67) remaining in the workforce compared to the other groups but there are still members of this generation working and many of those are very influential (think of Warren Buffett).
  • 25 million Baby Boomers have hit retirement age by this year and every day 10,000 more reach retirement age. Baby Boomers were previously the largest demographic group in the US numbering nearly 80 million.
  • Generation X is a smaller group with approximately 46 million individuals, but is the only group that currently has all of its members in the ages actively belonging in the workforce (ages 32-47). This group is sandwiched between two very large groups.
  • Millennials are another group nearing 80 million with over half of them already working. As this group continues to enter the workforce, they are having a significant impact.

Changing dynamics in the workplace

  • Baby Boomers are not retiring as quickly as once expected. This is partly because of the economy and partly because many of the Baby Boomers don’t want to retire. They have always viewed their job as a reflection of their self-worth and retirement can be difficult to accept voluntarily.
  • Gen Xers are ready to take on leadership positions and anxious for older generations to move out of their way.
  • Millennials enter the workforce wanting flexibility and high pay. They are energetic and optimistic about their careers.

It’s critical to bridge the gap between age differences when working together in teams.

One of the biggest generational changes is the expanding use of technology. Significant changes have taken place in the capabilities of computers and the use of technology at work and in our daily lives from the time Baby Boomers started working to the present. This dramatic difference in the familiarity and usage of technology and the resulting creation of data by generation is illustrated in the following information from Wikibon.

Feb 012013

Whether leading or observing other leaders, passion is the driving force that motivates individuals or groups. Leaders often talk about needing to find your passion. That’s a big thing for Millennial leaders.

  • Millennial leaders feel passion drives leaders.
  • Leaders must be passionate to inspire others to follow them.
  • Millennial leaders want to feel passionate about the organizations in which they are leading others.

You can’t give another person passion. What you can do is take away roadblocks that keep them from being passionate about something they already feel passionate about and that are keeping them from expressing their passion. As a good leader, you can help another person find ways to express their passion and inspire them to pursue their interests in this area. A good leader can also connect passionate people who have the same goals and help them direct their passion toward achievements and accomplishments that will make them feel proud.

Great leadership skills emerge when you are put in a situation you are passionate about and that is often when the true leader emerges. There is nothing like “sink or swim” to make us realize we have to step up to our true leadership potential. Sometimes we don’t recognize we did this until after the crisis or situation is over but looking back you may realize what a leadership growth opportunity it was. If you had not been passionate about what you believed in, you probably would not have been successful in the outcome.

It is difficult to be a great leader without a passion for the purpose, goal, or vision that needs to be accomplished.

Jan 222013

Are celebrities leaders? A leader inspires or motivates others and acts as an example. Many celebrities are influencing or inspiring others but are they doing the things we think of as examples of leaders? Some celebrities are using their names and their resources to help worthy causes toward education, research for diseases, aid for people in disaster and poverty-stricken areas, and more. When you think about Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, Usher, Jenna Bush, Chelsea Clinton, and others, do you think they are good examples of leaders? And there are examples like Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS Shoes, who saw a way to help people with a need. While Haley Kilpatrick is working hard to build girls’ self-esteem and fight bullying with her Girl Talk organization and book The Drama Years.

But we know leaders aren’t always leading in the right direction. Do celebrities have a responsibility to try to be good leaders because so many people are watching their actions? Or maybe it is the responsibility of the followers to decide who the good leaders are and make sure they are following the right people, not just the ones with the most visibility, the most popularity, or the most notoriety.