In today’s society, millennials are taking over the workforce. They are now the largest group of people in the workplace, and the most influential. With this large group of people comes fresh ideas about leadership within the workplace. According to an article, 7 Ways Millennials are Changing Traditional Leadership (Fries, 2018), millennials are challenging the traditional leadership styles of most companies. Traditional leadership includes a hierarchy of power, lack of empowerment amongst subordinates, lack of resistance among subordinates, seeking feedback from only top management, and a very work centered lifestyle (Fries, 2018). With more millennials entering the workforce and taking up leadership positions, they feel that the traditional ways of leadership are not as effective and are trying to find ways to fix it. This is leading to societal changes throughout many industries that adjust their approach to leadership to align with more millennial ideas.
Fries (2018), highlights seven ways that millennials are changing leadership. The first and biggest change highlighted is ‘millennials are willing to leave their job if leadership doesn’t meet their standards’ (Fries, 2018). In the traditional workplace, many employees may not have agreed with the leadership in place, however, they were too scared to do anything about it. They needed the money to support themselves and their family. If a company does not have up to par leadership, then they will have a high turnover with millennials.
To keep this from happening, leaders want to adjust the environment that millennials are working in. This large generation wants leadership that is effective in leading a team and meeting their needs. Millennials are also shifting leadership by finding new ways to develop their skills (Fries, 2018). In the traditional ways of leadership, employees were not as concerned with developing themselves or how to go about doing it. Millennials, however, know what areas that they want to improve on and look for job opportunities that have internships, mentorship, and online training (Fries,2018). If companies do not have these opportunities, then they are not as appealing to millennials.
Therefore, the companies must tweak the environment of their employees (Heath and Heath, 2010). Most companies have opportunities for their employees to develop their knowledge and skills, however, millennials want to take the easiest route possible. Having mentorships and online training appeal to both the elephant and the rider, because the path to developing skills can easily be accomplished (Heath and Heath, 2010). These two changes are centered around shaping the environment which the millennials are working in. If the millennial is in an environment that causes too many obstacles to developing themselves and their careers, then they will seek other companies and environments that have a more structured path to accomplish their goals.
Another change that millennials are starting to create is that leadership is asking for feedback from everyone and trying to empower their employees (Fries, 2018). Many millennials believe that this is important because top leaders do not necessarily always know what is going on within the workplace and where the issues are arising. According to Robert Gates (Hudson Union, 2016), leaders should be asking everyone for the feedback, because the lower employees, including many millennials, are the ones dealing with the daily operations. They know the processes within the company better than the top leaders do and thus can provide better solutions to problems.
This also provides a way for millennials to feel empowered and part of the decision-making process within the company (Hudson Union, 2016). Empowerment allows millennials to take ownership in the work they are doing and provides them with a way to directly impact the company. They can be held more accountable for the work that they are doing if they created the processes surrounding it (Gates, 2016). If they fail to do their work, then they can not pass on the blame to the process or others because they were the ones that gave input and helped to develop it. As millennials move into leadership roles, they take these ideas with them and further empower their employees (Fries, 2018).
When it comes to creating policies within the workplace, many millennials are quick to accept or challenge them depending on if they are beneficial (Fries, 2018). If top leaders create a policy that the employees deem unnecessary or not beneficial, then they will rally to get the leaders to change it. In Switch (Heath and Heath, 2010), they talk about how leaders must get followers to slowly side with them and get behind the change that they are trying to make. When it comes to millennials, however, the opposite is happening. Millennials and other employees may deem a policy as not adding value to the company. They begin to rally together and oppose the policy. If enough people oppose it and provide a good reason for opposition, then the leader is forced to look at the policy and revise it so that it adds value. This is a prime example of how millennials are stepping into nontraditional leadership roles.
The last major shift from traditional to millennial style leadership is focusing on a healthy balance between life and work (Fries, 2018). This change deals with creating a more flexible environment for employees and developing small habits that provide breaks from work (Heath and Heath, 2010). Millennials feel that constant focus on work makes them unproductive as the time passes. Instead, they want a work environment where they can take small breaks to keep their mind fresh, and the ability to choose what hours to work to fit their schedules (Fries, 2018). If employees are given some flexibility in their work, then they remain productive and produce better quality work. Once they leave work for the day, they want to enjoy their time off and concentrate on themselves. To achieve this, they need to build habits like not responding to work emails or calls while at home (Heath and Heath, 2010). This allows for overall happiness within the employees while creating a more positive work environment.
When it comes to leadership in the workplace, millennials are making big changes and will continue to make more. The traditional style of leadership does not align with creating easy paths to accomplish goals. Millennials have a mindset of where they want to go and a vague idea of how to get there. They just want to find the path that is the easiest to follow, thus creating the changes in leadership that have been discussed. Many businesses are being forced to change their practices to accommodate millennials because they are such a large and influential part of the workforce. While many of the changes discussed are taking leadership in a completely different direction, I would like to see businesses try to combine some of the ideals of traditional leadership with millennials’ ideals. This would keep the millennials at peace while also preventing the other generations in the workforce from going into shock from the societal leadership changes.
- Fries, K. (2018, January 18). 7 Ways Millennials are Changing Traditional Leadership.
- Gates, R.M. (2016). A Passion for Leadership. New York, NY. Alfred A. Knopf.
- Heath, C. & Heath, D. (2010). Switch. New York, NY. Broadway Books.
- Hudson Union. (2016, June 3). Director of CIA Robert Gates on Why Big Institutions are Failing [Video file].