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  • Writer's pictureDarron Padilla

5 leadership attributes that get millennial employees to follow you

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Millennials will make up over 50% of the workforce by 2020. This transition is causing a transformation in leadership expectations, which may make it challenging for senior leaders to get Millennials to follow them.


The Shift Change. No, I’m not talking about menopause or even “manopause,” but to a senior leader, it feels the same. Shift Change is the generational shift of human resources moving from Boomers, who are retiring, to Millennials taking on leadership roles within organizations across the Western world. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Millennials will make up over 50% of the workforce by 2020. This transition is causing a transformation in leadership expectations, which may make it challenging for senior leaders to get Millennials to follow them.


So how do you get Millennials to follow you as a leader? Well, I interviewed 20 Millennials who work for a Silicon Valley business consulting firm to help answer this question. Examination of their responses suggested that five broad leadership attributes could be associated with strong followership.


“Millennials look to leaders for transparent communication. They like straight talk, not sugar-coated.”

1. Offer task-related support customized to the employee

Millennials look to leaders for transparent communication. They like straight talk, not sugar-coated. They want the good and the bad news, and you will lose credibility as a leader if you continually communicate that everything is on the up-and-up. It is important to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each Millennial to customize your communication to help motivate and direct their work. Millennials also need autonomy, leader availability, motivation, and realistic expectations when doing work. Set clear expectations on how you need the final deliverable or task completed and provide them the autonomy to get it done the way they work best. Make sure you are available for answering any questions they have during the process, but, be careful not to micro-manage by offering constant direction without their asking for it. A good rule of thumb is to ask questions about how they would approach the solution instead of telling them the answer. This helps develop their skills and competencies, while increasing their motivation.


2. Be calm and competent in your leadership role

Leaders should demonstrate that they have subject matter expertise, are confident and poised under pressure, have a successful track record accomplishing goals, are passionate, and can influence others. Millennials are extremely good observers of leadership behaviors and subject matter expertise – both during and after work hours. They see how leaders interact with each other as a way to gauge a leader’s social intelligence, especially during meetings. They tend to follow leaders who are adept at “reading the room” and adjusting their communication style to influence others, as well as remain calm and poised when challenged. Millennials admire leaders who are “cool under pressure”, yet passionate about their work. They tend to follow leaders who have a great track record of accomplishing organizational goals – particularly those that seem impossible.


3. Demonstrate principled, hands-on leadership

Millennials follow leaders who are characterized by integrity, accountability, and servant leadership. A principled leader leads with integrity, shows vulnerability, and does not play the “blame game”. They accept accountability for getting things done right, and look to the greater good of the team, the company, or the employee instead of what’s best for their career or department. Millennials are attracted to leaders that roll up their sleeves and join the team in getting work done. In fact, Millennials are willing to volunteer their personal time to meet a tight deadline if they see their leader doing the same.


4. Support followers’ career success and development

Leaders must show genuine interest in the follower and their career by mentoring, coaching, and advocating for them, while giving credit to them when they succeed. Millennials will follow any leader who gets to know them personally – like knowing the name of their significant other or pets at home and asking how they are doing. By getting to know the interests of their Millennial follower, leaders can better mentor, coach, and advocate for that employee. Even though it’s the responsibility of the Millennial to manage their own career, leaders can make themselves available to mentor and coach when asked. This approach goes a long way in retaining Millennial employees.


5. Promote teamwork

Millennials prefer to work in teams where they can rely on each other’s strengths, creativity, and innovation to accomplish challenging business goals. According to a PwC report, Millennials like to “collaborate and is apt to join organizations that build a culture of teamwork and a sense of community.” Therefore, leaders should strive to build a culture where teamwork is rewarded, and employees can easily form teams as needed to meet organizational goals. The work environment should also be designed in such a way that collaboration is easy and can take on many forms, such as video conferencing, group messaging, or even moveable furniture.


Millennials are expecting more from leaders than previous generations. Their ability to network and share experiences using Social Media has brought awareness to leadership styles and attributes that easily motivate or demotivate them. Following these 5 simple leadership behaviors can help Millennials follow you as a leader in a way that brings real business results.

 

Darron Padilla is an Organization Development Consultant helping organizations design cultures that support and advance our next generation of leaders. He currently lives in San Francisco and is a graduate of Pepperdine University’s Masters in Organization Development.

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