Is there a corner office? Who’s in it? Someone with gray hair and lots of leadership miles or a young person in a hoodie and ripped genes (and ripped abs!)?
I’m finding, much to my delight, that the chief executives, company founders, and c-suite leaders I work with are increasingly of the Millennial (or so-called “Y”) generation. I think that’s good news for all of us. Millennials are forcing us to rethink business in such a way as to be much more agile and adaptive in nature. And as we all “know” from Darwin, the most adaptable survive (not necessarily the “fittest,” but the most adaptable.)
So, what changes are they driving? Often modifications that improve employee engagement. I see much more collaboration, autonomy, mastery, and, perhaps most exciting is the focus on a larger purpose or “Why.” That is all good in my book — or rather, Daniel Pink’s, Simon Sinek’s, and David Marquet’s books.
The Millennials are driving changes that Jacob Morgan noted as being (a) flatter organizations, (b) flexible work hours, (c) engaging workspaces (not stuffy old “offices”), (d) information available to everyone in the organization, not just “managers,” and (e) getting rid of the horrible practice of annual performance reviews.
Indeed, not all Millennial Entrepreneurs are going down this path, but enough are that I believe we have a chance to be competitive in the quickly evolving global economy. They seem to understand that transparency, purpose, and giving control away is what it takes to be successful.
Working with these young leaders, I have had to step back and re-evaluate methods my mentors taught me as “the right way.” I admit it is hard to give up old familiar ways of being a leader, but it is necessary to succeed these days. I respectfully suggest to all Boomer and Generation X leaders that we might do well to use the Gen Y folks in our companies to “Listen, Learn and Then Lead.”
And to make sure I’m even-handed in all of this opinion on leadership, I respectfully suggest to our Millennial employees that there is much to be learned from the Boomers and Gen Xers. People tell me that, “Good Judgement Comes From Wisdom, Wisdom Comes From Experience, Experience Comes From Poor Judgement.” I think it is wise to remember that the “older” generation is indeed more experienced and that while things have changed, the experience may still be relevant to some of today’s challenges. But also it may be less relevant than we might hope. The point is that we should all listen and learn from each other and then go out and lead, as Stanley McChrystal suggests.
[Updated 9/16/2017 Lightly edited in 9/2020 for our new website.]