Millennials Becoming Leaders:
Change is Coming!

When you hear the term “Millennial,” what comes to mind? If you’re like many, you may think of children, youth, or teens. Yet, the oldest members of this generation, born between 1981 and 1997 (Pew Research), are turning 34 this year. Surprised?

What may be even more surprising are the results of the 2015 GMAC Alumni Perspectives Survey. Among them, we learn that most alumni held mid-level positions one year after completing their graduate business programs, and reached c-suite positions 17 years after graduation, on average. Assuming these respondents entered graduate school immediately following undergraduate, we can expect Millennials to be entering the c-suite within the next 5 to 10 years.

The challenge for business leaders today comes in anticipation of this entry, knowing that what we do now to help develop these individuals in mid-management positions understand c-suite requirements will not only better enable them for what’s coming, but also more favorably position the organization for success.

With this in mind, consider the following statement, taken from a recent article in the Harvard Business Review: “Once people reach the C-suite, technical and functional expertise matters less than leadership skills and a strong grasp of business fundamentals.” In other words, the skills that help leaders climb to the top won’t suffice once they get there.  Many leaders would agree, leadership training with Millennials is a challenge within a challenge, for they are known to be “impatient, eager to learn, and want prosperous careers…all the while having fun at work.” (Bersin by Deloitte)

How do you face down such a challenge? The New Leader’s Council and Virtuali’s recently released its report, “Engaging Millennials through Leadership Development: Teaching Millennials to lead is the key to talent acquisition.” In it, the following insights are revealed, which will hopefully be useful in your Millennial-specific leadership development efforts:

  • 64% of those surveyed feel ‘unprepared’ for leadership due to reported difficulties managing people and resolving conflict.
  • Millennials consistently rate leadership development as a top employer benefit.
  • Yet, they need a different type of training that what works for Baby Boomers. Training must be more individualized, on-demand, and experiential in nature.
  • They value people-centric leadership, placing more importance on communication and relationship skills than hard skills.
  • They see leadership as a network of relationships, geared toward individual development, and not as an organizational chart based on titles.

The report goes on to explain how difficult it will be for employers to keep talent if the focus doesn’t shift from title- and financial-based incentives to one that emphasizes the importance of relationship-building and interpersonal skills. And, with more than one in three workers in the workforce today belonging to the Millennial generation, it’s safe to say the C-suite would be wise to take heed today, in order to be prepared for what’s coming tomorrow.