Aristotle once said: “We do not learn ethics from reading a treatise on virtue. We learn ethics through the witness of others.”
This quote applies directly to both ethics and leadership, and it specifically applies to leadership and the growing millennial workforce. I believe Millennials don’t like to be told, ordered, or required to behave, perform, or comply. However, I believe that they are open to being lead. That is, they are open to leadership that offers a model, lives out what they expect from others, and establishes reasonable standards and expectations. In other words, a leader who is a witness to others, and not just an authority figure.
• Millennials are particularly sensitive to feedback. To successfully lead them, you must provide feedback that’s honest and devoid of deception, but deliver it with compassion and care. Great leaders are able to connect with and resonate the needs of their employee/followers.
• Millennials are filled with creativity and new ideas. To be a great leader you must be open to those ideas and join in their creative thinking. Previous generations were fine working in cubicles, having a strict dress code, and towing the company line. Millennials want “fun” workplaces, want to be comfortable, and won’t settle for “this is the way things are always done.” Leaders must be open to this new approach.
• Flexibility is extremely important to Millennials. They don’t want to be confined with strict rules and schedules. To lead this generation, stay focused on their end work product rather than their schedule or them working from home.
• It’s easy to write the Millennials off as lazy or entitled, but a great leader executes fairness. You should put aside your personal bias and judge people on their merits. Not all Millennials will act the same way or respond the same way to feedback. Avoid stereotyping.
• Great leaders are able to connect and respond to the needs of their followers. Understanding what the millennial generation needs – coaching, flexibility, recognition – is the first step in successfully leading them. Then, in order for them to respond to you, you must respond to them.