A lot of research has been put into studying the perspectives and values of the millennial generation that is currently entering into and engaging in the work force. One of the more interesting pieces that make up this demographic is the value they place on social issues. They have a clear vision of where they fit in the world. There is a recognition that as citizens of our society they enjoy a prosperity and quality of life that is unparalleled in the history of man. This understanding has created a sensitivity to issues around justice, fair play and an insistence that their prosperity should not come at the cost of anyone else.
It is manifested in a multitude of causes that are rapidly evolving and growing as this generation grapples with the realities of addressing inequality. Fair Trade, Direct Trade, Micro-Financing and a host of other movements have sprung up to address these concerns. In terms of how companies can tap into that social activism there are already a number of excellent studies that have come out but what I want to very briefly explore is how this outlook may impact how millennials lead in the work place.
As I looked at the research into this area I was surprised by two things; first that millennial's clearly understand that they can be good leaders but are lacking the skills and experience. That having been said they are also clear about challenging the current definitions of leadership as part of aligning those views with their own. In a word, they know they need some skills and training but they also don't agree with the current definitions of leadership and are not afraid to explore other models.
They have been brought up in a culture of collaboration and they are generally much more comfortable in that setting. Add to this their world view that all should benefit from the activities that generate wealth and one begins to get a sense of what kind of leadership they envision.
They want to lead teams collaboratively and in a manner that benefits all on the team. There is a heavy emphasis on engagement and meaning and issues such as status and money are actually secondary considerations for them. They would rather make less money if it meant they could be in a work place that acknowledged them and the group and had meaning for them.
Contrast this to the "boomer" corporate ladder climbing and in a sense they have turned this on its head. Instead of climbing the ladder so that they have more people reporting to and working for them they instead look at promotion as a means to an end which is typically a greater opportunity to benefit their team. Instead of "the higher I go the more who serve me" they adopt a "the higher I go the more people I can help and serve" approach.
Lets be clear this is not a new idea and the concept of servant leadership, for example, has been around a long time. The difference is that there is a far broader scope of agreement among this group and this is the kind of leadership they relate to the most and want to emulate.
So all in all they present an interesting paradox. They know they lack some skill and experience to be effective leaders but are not afraid to challenge some of the current leadership approaches that don't align with their world view. The challenge is what do you need to do to provide them with that training and to utilize that passion to allow them to succeed? Upside down or right-side up? You decide.