Learning leadership is not a generic process.
Understanding who your followers are should dictate how you lead. In other words, a specific set of followers may mandate a specific leadership style.
For example, learning leadership in order to guide a group of Baby Boomers or Gen Xers toward a higher rate of productivity may not be dramatically different from the style you’d employ while working with a group of Millennials.
But don’t delude yourself. There will be challenges peculiar to this digital generation, and the biggest challenge may be understanding what makes them tick.
Despite rumors to the contrary, Millennials are not an alien life form. And that’s good news, because they make up one-third of the workforce in America. They desire professional success and the resulting financial benefits just like anyone else. But their drive for that success is steered by a different set of priorities than their Baby Boomer or Gen X counterparts.
So learning leadership in order to guide Millennials up the ladder of success means understanding that the entrepreneurial raison d’etre in the minds of these executives-in-training extends well beyond the company’s bottom line. For these young people, corporate responsibility is the bottom line.
Like any other employee they want to be appreciated and rewarded for their contributions to the team, but they also value human relationships beyond the hierarchical pecking order. They want and expect to be recognized as an asset to the company, not just for what they contribute, but for who they are as people.
Paradoxically Millennials have a very independent spirit, but they’re highly social beings who express their sense of community online. Social media is not ancillary to their lives; it’s an integral part of it. Treating Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and the plethora of other social networks as somehow peripheral to the workplace, or as a lower priority won’t just alienate them. It will prove to be a missed opportunity that will negatively impact your marketing model, and handicap your overall leadership style.
Both individualistic and tribal, this unique generation will plant their flag and declare their loyalty to a company that embraces the idea of doing good works with the same zeal it has for making money. Leading them to the bottom line of a spreadsheet will only ignite their passion if altruism is a part of your endgame.
You want to lead Millennials? Make sure they understand and embrace the heart of your corporate culture. Learning leadership to make them followers means casting a vision they can see clearly; one that inspires them to become impassioned advocates.
Impassioned? Yes, because they want to their lives and their careers to make a difference. They live in a digitized global community where striving to make a difference is not an idealistic pipe dream. It’s entirely realistic, and they do it every day via the power of social media.