Being a quality leader requires an understanding of who you are leading. Today’s workforce comprises multiple generations, each with its own preferences in how they like to be managed. Millennials are the largest generation in today’s workforce. Millennials have challenged the traditional style of leadership by having different values and expectations from their leaders. Communication, relationship-building and empowerment are some of the key components in millennials’ preferred leadership styles.
What do millennials want in a leader?
These are some key principles that guide what millennials are looking for in a leader:
- Mission-based role assignment
- Acknowledgment of life outside of work
- Attention as an individual, not a group
- Encouragement to work toward something greater than themselves
The needs of millennials in the workplace are driven by the desire to find a life purpose and fulfillment. A business must align its mission to one that serves a bigger, life-changing purpose than merely selling a product or service to the market. Leaders must define each role assigned to a millennial based on this mission in order for them to find fulfillment.
Good leaders must be able to look at each individual holistically. The needs and concerns of your employees outside of work directly impact their performance at work. Millennials who have a family want their employers to address issues affecting their family. These issues include medical insurance as well as maternity and paternity leave.
FYI: As of 2021, millennials make up 35% of the workforce.
Does a new workforce require new leadership styles?
Many conversations in the business world center on the ever-changing needs, behaviors, and characteristics of the current – and future – employee bases. Companies are looking to better understand their potential hires and how those people will impact their organizations in turn.
But what about the leaders? If the employee base is evolving, then surely the leadership is too? As it turns out, that is exactly what’s happening.
As organizations embrace the millennial evolution, they’re seeking new leadership styles that 10 years ago wouldn’t have been considered necessary, or even effective. [Read related article: Best Leadership Books for Small Business Owners]
5 modern leadership styles
These leaders don’t just think outside of the box, but also hire outside of it – and expect the same unconventional thinking from their recruits. Innovative leaders focus on the big picture, understanding that significant risk-taking is necessary to achieve the next big thing.
What does this look like? You’ll likely find fewer protocols and processes happening under the leadership of an innovator. Instead, they push the company to see what successes shake out from unorthodox approaches.
Servant leaders ensure the overall happiness and success of their employees. They invest both personally and professionally in their team members – getting to know them better, including their individual goals so the leader can help them achieve those goals. This comes across through mentorship programs, company training sessions, and continuous education, often on behalf of the company.
Easily one of the most debated topics currently, the trend of increasing empathy in leadership has two very opinionated sides. That said, for companies that strive for empathetic leadership, the ability to listen and understand employees ultimately improves the workplace culture for productivity and, in turn, success.
With this style of leadership, managers try to encourage and inspire their employees to focus on the future success of the company through innovation and real change within the company. This creates a sense of autonomy among employees, since a main focus of this management style is to eliminate micromanaging. It also lets the employee know that they play a big part in the success of the company and their own future within it, which shows the employee that the relationship is mutually beneficial (or should be, at least).
Millennials want to be trusted to do the job they were hired to do, which contributes to the appeal of this leadership style.
Did you know? James V. Downton came up with the concept of transformational leadership in 1973, and James Burns expanded on it in 1978. It was expanded even further in 1985 by researcher Bernard Bass to measure the success of transformative leadership.
Committed to diversity
Finally, the leaders who are persistently on the lookout for diversity create big leaps forward for organizations. Those with the ability to look beyond the normal outlets for new hires, successfully recruiting people from all walks of life, understand that with diversity comes fresh perspectives. Typically at the forefront of social justice movements for change, these leaders aren’t willing to stray from their belief that welcoming everyone – regardless of gender, religion, ethnicity or sexuality – only enhances the culture and growth of the company.
There are, of course, other traits that are becoming mainstays in the business world. Companies are embracing flexible workforces in their efforts to offer a better work-life balance, emphasizing healthy communication, leading by example and employee empowerment.
It’s exciting to see the changes coming from the most successful companies around the world. With more millennials continuing to enter the workforce, more transformations in leadership practices are undoubtedly coming our way.
Millennial leadership styles
Along with how to lead them, it is essential to analyze what millennials bring to the table as leaders themselves. Are they different from traditional leaders? Here are a few skills that millennials offer as leaders.
1. Millennials are more willing to speak out.
Traditional leaders maintain the organizational way of doing things. Millennial leaders tend to be more willing to speak out on areas of dissatisfaction and challenge old ways of doing things. For example, modern organizations embrace new ways of communication besides formal emails. Companies can now use text messaging and other new methods to market their products.
FYI: Many older millennials in management positions are second-guessing if they even want to be “the boss” for many reasons, burnout being one of them.
2. Millennials prefer a teamwork approach versus authoritative management.
One of the most important values millennials hold is their need to build relationships. Millennial leaders prefer using a team approach versus an individualistic approach to achieve the goals and mission of the organization. Millennial leaders will seek the opinions of their teams before making major decisions.
3. Millennials as leaders seek purpose and fulfillment.
Family values and individual goals are key aspects of millennial leadership styles. Millennials leaders are embracing their employees working from home, recognizing that employees can serve their families and still meet the needs of the business. Video conferencing is an important component of communication when employees are working away from the usual workplace.