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Via LinkedIn : I coach millennial CEOs and entrepreneurs. As a generation they are talented, well educated, wonderfully human, internationally experienced, efficient and work well with Generation X and other millennials. I’m observing that many of these millennials apply a new set of rules when it comes to leadership.

They are highly adaptable. Building solutions with a fail fast mindset and a determination to accomplish what others believe is impossible. Millennials came of age facing diminishing resources and debt. They are socially aware, interested in earning a good living and making a difference in the world. They don’t see the two objectives as mutually exclusive. They expect corporations to be flexible, efficient and socially responsible.

By 2025 this generation will dominate the workforce, and the 21st Century workplace needs the characteristics inherent in many millennials. As boomers retire and corporations confront a talent shortage, milliennials will assume leadership roles earlier than their predecessors. At 50 million, there are just not enough Gen Xers available to fill the positions. At 70 million, millennials are becoming a massive force. Through sheer numbers alone they will dominate the workplace and cultural trends in ways the Generation X cannot. Recent studies report that companies with aggressive growth have higher proportions of women and millennials in leadership positions. This trend signals this generation’s compatibility with corporate needs.

Millennials have little tolerance for inefficiency or grunt work. They are networked, flexible, independent, collaborative and innovative. It’s an age old thing- generation after generation the incumbent workers of 20+ years expect the new talent to abide by their ways, and in todays fast paced world, that thinking has never been made more obsolete. Embracing the new leadership paradigm requires transparency, accountability, empathy, vision setting and patience on all sides.

Here are the characteristics that make millennials great 21st Century leaders:


As senior managers begin to retire and businesses confront the changing needs and dynamics of a global workforce, many are turning to millennials to lead. This generation is the most ethnically diverse to come of age yet, and they bring to work the inherent diversity of opinion needed in order for corporations to thrive. Diversity is about much more than the lip service it was given in the 90s. Corporations now recognise that without diversity they will fail to thrive. Driven by globalisation, diversity is seen as a necessity.


Millennials embrace technology and constantly look for ways to improve systems. Many millennials want to run their own businesses because of their low tolerance for inefficiency. It is a sharp shift in attitudes compared to the majority of boomers who played it safe by climbing the ranks of corporate hierarchies and whose mantra became “risk averse.” A recent study by Deloite revealed many millennials are frustrated by the inabilities and inefficiencies within businesses to innovate and respond quickly. They see corporations as bogged down by bureaucracy. As millennials form their own companies and take on leadership roles, they are working to transform these organisational models.


This generation does not hesitate to seek out opportunities for advancement. They are also not afraid to take calculated risks. Faced with a weak job market, they are entrepreneurial. They want flexibility. Many millennials aspire to own their own company and build their own businesses. They don’t expect corporations to take care of them. They don’t expect to work for the same company for 30, 20 or even 10 years.


The workforce must be networked and adaptable to succeed in today’ climate. Millennials have grown up with technology constantly transforming their world and are accustomed to fast moving change. They are flexible. Corporations are beginning to recognise that they need to fill in the gaps with an agile workforce. Millennials are accustomed to having to adapt to changing circumstances. Technology and economic forces will constantly displace them in the marketplace and they are prepared to adapt.


Evident in latest crop of start-ups such as Airbnb, Lyft and Uber, collaboration is the emerging economic paradigm. The sharing economy is a millennial invention born out of their experience with a shortage of resources and the need to establish strong networks to thrive. Millennials know how to share resources, time and ideas. They are team players. More so than any previous generation, they understand the power of collaboration. Millennials are comfortable functioning in lateral networking with rotating leadership.


The majority of millennials sleep with their phones. Technology is completely integrated into daily life. Digital life is not something they schedule into their routine as it is for most boomers, it’s just a part of them. They see technology as a way to increase efficiency and have little patience for the inefficiency they witness in many corporations whose processes appear archaic to the nimble millennials.

According to Deloite, “Today’s market environment places a premium on speed, flexibility, and the ability to lead in uncertain situations.” These findings describe the attributes characteristic of many millennials. This well-educated generation possesses self-confidence, lots of energy and they multi-task efficiently. They believe in doing well by doing good. Determined to leave the corporations they work for a little better off than when they arrived, they work smarter. Millennials aren’t waiting around to be told what to do. They move themselves FORWARD.

Caroline Stokes is founder of FORWARD Human Capital Solutions. FORWARD does things differently for people in digital organisations who demand inspiring talent solutions for transformative results.


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