Are the Millennials Inherent Leaders?

I recently read an article on NPR talking about how the “‘Globals’ Generation Focuses On Experience”. Part of the article that really struck a chord was that the 28-year-old “global” in the article talks about supporting others and listening as a key core value:

“My American dream is for other people to be able to achieve whatever they want to achieve,” [La Mikia] Castillo says. “It’s not really about me and what I have as an individual. It’s about trying to make a difference around the world.”

This idea of empowering your team is something that leadership books and articles have been pushing for a long time (e.g. First Break All the Rules (specifically about focusing on employees’ strengths and helping them be the best they can, “Are You Interested?”, “Non-hierarchical Management”). It’s been core to my ethos as a manager for years (and therefore something I’m alway trying to get better at) and there’s certainly a lot of talk about it, but you don’t often see it in action.

Now maybe I’m mixing up my generations (is ‘Globals’ different than ‘Millennials’?) but I remember hearing traditional leaders claiming this to be a generation of people who believe in “entitlement”. Specifically, that they expect certain attitudes at the workplace or expect a ping-pong table and beer in the fridge or expect to be paid whether they hit their goals or not.

This contrast in attitudes is interesting. It certainly sounds like a standard generational gap response (“kids these days…”), but I think there’s something more going on. If you had built your career in a “traditional” leadership style where respect was given based on rank, salaries were set based on rank and your personal goals or accomplishments determined your bonus and success in the workplace, you might find the actions of someone with the attitude quoted above to appear misaligned with your goals and therefore appearing to be “entitled” to benefits of a job beyond the work that you see them doing.

The other parts of the article implied that this is a representative attitude borne of a more globally connected generation. I hope that’s true because I think this cultural belief, coupled with the interest in non-hierarchical management (specifically, Valve or Ciplex) is going to lead to some really interesting changes that are critical to maintaining innovation in America in the future.


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