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.

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