Millennial Leadership: What You Should Know, How To Prepare

We can all agree that Millennials are… different.

Love it or hate it, they are transforming the workforce more and more each day. Whether you are excited or nervous about their “disruptive” ways, it’s important to recognize the obvious: Millennials aren’t in high school anymore. They’re older and wiser and many are rapidly growing into high-level positions. And with that comes change. Lots of change… for everyone.

There’s no shortage of literature out there about this generation (just ask King Google), but what do leaders actually need to know?

Well, for starters, we have to face the facts. Check out this nifty slideshare about Millennials in the workforce:

Okay, now that we’ve collected the data, let’s dissect what it all means.


How an organization embraces Millennials will ultimately determine its’ success. It’s that simple, really. Because Millennials are not only within the organization, they are also OUTSIDE! Which means they are shaping our society as a whole. The shift is real. Get on board.

Millennials Want to Feel Connected to Their Work & Colleagues

Long gone are the days where a toxic work environment is tolerated or higher pay can compensate for meaningless or unappealing work. Truth is, Millennials aren’t scared of switching jobs. Unless they feel connected to their work, chances are they are already looking for a replacement job.

Below are 3 things you can do to nurture Millennials for success within your organization, and how you can adapt with the times by embracing them.

Get to know who they are outside of their work. What shows do they binge-watch? What causes do they care about? What are their hopes, fears and dreams? Understanding these layers of who they are will help you find ways to fill their professional needs and also connect your products, processes, or opportunities with current trends.

Humanize yourself. Millennials don’t want to feel scared or intimidated by their organization’s leadership team. Pay close attention to avoid a hierarchical vibe. Instead, find a common ground (e.g. food, board games, TV, etc.) and connect with them. It will go a long way to connecting on a personal level and engage them on a personal level.

Check up on them… frequently. An end-of-year review won’t work for this generation. Millennials crave feedback because they crave improvement. They always want to do and be better, which is why organizations need to make sure that they are checking working closely with their team on a consistent basis. Collaboration is key.

Millennials Thrive with Freedom & Respect

Millennials are known for craving work-life balance. Previous Gallup research on the generation revealed that they place an importance on having a life — not just a job. But isn’t this what we all strive for? When my millennial employee leaves at 4PM to go to the gym, and I get frustrated, all I have to do is put the mirror up and recognize that I’m frustrated because I’m not committing to myself in the way I want to. Good for them, I need to follow their lead!

Instead of pegging them as entitled, we should be applauding Millennials for their confidence and courage to aim high. Their self-assurance just means that they know themselves and show up with their whole self. They want to be respected for who they are and what they bring to the table. They don’t settle for less. Isn’t that what we should all be striving for?

Millennials Want to Make a Difference

Millennials seek purpose-filled work. They want to do work that matters, and they want everyone to be involved. They would also rather create change through action than make a charitable donation. If you want to attract the right millennial crowd, consider having your organization implement a volunteer PTO, cross-functional collaboration, and other inclusive, purpose-driven projects.


Millennial leadership is increasing more and more each day. The best time to prepare and nurture Millennials for leadership was yesterday. The second best time is today. And guess what? Development needs to look different than it has in the past. Impactful development will be fast-paced, inspirational, fun and entertaining, highly applicable to what is needed when it is needed, multi-dimensional (appeal to the five senses), and rewarding (think awards, certifications, levels of achievement, etc.)

Upcoming Challenges

Work/life balance. PTO. Work from home. The challenges are real.

Here are a few obstacles your organization should be ready for:

They communicate through multiple mediums. Did you know that 39% of Millennials admit to interacting more with their phones than the actual people in their lives? To combat this, consider holding interactive meetings, investing in communication training programs, hosting phoneless work days and other opportunities that create opportunities for more interaction. They do love to interact and collaborate, so it won’t be a stretch. Set expectations and also consider new ways of communicating.

Millennials are loyal… to their happiness. If they aren’t happy, they will most likely leave. Some will also vanish simply out of temptation to pursue other opportunities. Invest in those who are the most engaged and highest performing and show them the long game – what is their future with the organization so they know it is worth committing to.

They’ll face the dilemma of automation. Contrary to what you might think, Millennials are on the fence about the positive impact of automation. They offer insightful critical thinking on hot issues about how and when to adopt up-and-coming technologies. They see both sides to dehumanizing – and are going to be helpful in making decisions with integrity and an eye on long-term consequences.

They are easily distracted – inherent multi-taskers. Millennials may be the biggest culprits when it comes to workplace distractions, and organizations need to find ways to keep them on track. Focus is a muscle, so consider setting deadline-driven targets and goals that will keep them on their toes. Also look for practical solutions like noise-cancelling headphones, private space for focused work, timers for short-but-laser focused productivity, etc.

Patience is not their thing. In a world where food is easily delivered to your doorstep and Uber rides are a cinch, Millennials are used to having what they want at the touch of a button/screen. This may be challenging for long-term projects, when decisions take longer to make, or there are delays in taking action (i.e. a promotion takes more than a year!). Frequent wins and recognition are helpful and also build a celebratory, positive work environment.

But Don’t Stress – This Is a Good Thing!

The fact of the matter is that Millennials simply want something we always dreamed of having. Freedom, flexibility, influence, and impact. They’re just brave enough to expect it.

Adjusting to this shift is not only necessary but also beneficial to us all. So instead of ignoring the current, we should be looking for ways to successfully transition into this new era. Here are a few ways to get started:

In the end…

In a recent conversation with a leadership team we were deconstructing each of the generations and a millennial member said, “why do we have to label generations – can’t we all just get along and be respected for who we are.” First, I said, “spoken like a true millennial.” Then, I explained that the point isn’t the labels. The point is to deconstruct and understand the differences so we can find ways to connect and get on the same page – moving forward together.

We spend so much time reacting to how someone is different than we are, or judging what they have versus what we have, that we lose track of the importance of moving forward together. Our future really does look better together. We ALL need to adapt and appreciate what each has to offer. Then we can build systems, structures, processes, products, and experiences based on the best of what we all bring to the table!


Want to know where you stand with your organization’s Millennials? Take our 15 question quiz to find out!