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What Sort of Leaders Will Generation Y Be?

3rd November 2014

Alan Cutler, author of the new book Leadership Psychology, reflects on how organizations can attract, support and retrain talented young leaders.

Leadership Psychology (9780749470814)Millennials want leadership and they want it their way. The principal finding was that they are particularly interested in creating and leading their own businesses. This is probably not too surprising, having seen their elders laid off during recessional times, and experienced the growth of new internet companies.

Millennials know that they are not always ready for leadership, but they still want it. The research showed that they are very aware that they need to develop their skills. To retain Generation Y talent, modern organizations need to create what Deloitte calls a ‘corporate lattice,’ not a ‘corporate ladder.’

Millennials value open, transparent, inclusive leadership styles. Young people readily use social media, and organizations need to reflect this in creating accessible, transparent internal communications systems. Moreover, growing up where gender, race, sexual orientation and age diversity is increasingly accepted, millennials will lead inclusively.

Millennials demand career growth, and quickly. Personal development is very important to them. They will move jobs willingly if their present job does not offer promotion potential.

Millennials want appraisals based upon performance, not length of service. Organizations that reward employees entirely for their length of service will not fully meet the needs of Generation Y.

Millennials require less role clarity and manager relationships. Not only do they not seek structured jobs, they are also less committed to stronger relationships with one manager. That is not to say they do not value effective leadership, but they are happy to operate in an open culture that offers support from many sources.

Millennials thrive on change. Unlike previous generations who were wary of, and uncomfortable with, change, young 21st-century leaders want to work in innovative, dynamic and changing organizations. More established leaders should create environments where their younger colleagues have access to new learning experiences and business development initiatives. 

The figures are from Bersin (2007) reporting research by Deloitte in partnership with the Confederation of India Industries, which sought to understand the role of millennials in business. With nearly half of the 2,400 respondents already in leadership positions, their findings on what kind of leaders Generation Y will be are well-timed.

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