Millennials are ready to lead (so let them)

Millennials are ready to lead (so let them)

Baby Boomers' grip on the industry's leadership reins is loosening as younger team members step into top roles – and companies will benefit from more age-diverse leaders, Sarah Sladek, founder of management consulting firm XYZ University, told participants during "When Your Employee is OIder: Leadership Lessons for Millennials," the fourth of six NEW Multigenerational Leadership webinars.

Looking to advance their careers and take on more responsibility, Gen Y employees are eager to lead and managers should give them opportunities to learn how to lead, Sladek said.

Generations' different value systems and approaches to work can cause workplace conflict, though, and managers should keep in mind that "Millennials judge themselves on potential and ambition, while companies judge Millennials on results and professionalism."

Growing up in different eras shapes different views of leadership and seniority, Sladek said. "Millennials have been raised watching some of the most inspirational, innovative leaders of all time" and don't believe a traditional hierarchy is necessary. Younger employees focus on individuality, not conformity. 

All generations need to be reminded of the difference between "leadership" and "management." Younger generations crave leadership, with an emphasis on emotional and relational dynamics, over management, which governs through structure over flexibility.

A new generation of leaders

Millennials who find themselves in supervisory positions should respect the older employees and learn from them. "Their knowledge and experience is priceless," she said.

One tip she offered Millennials: "Don't look down at your tech. Eye contact is meaningful — and important to older generations."

Capturing the knowledge of more experienced, older team members before they leave the workforce is essential. Sladek advised interviewing Boomers – and guesstimating the attrition rate of team members to know where the company is likely to lose leadership skills and knowledge. Ask them what they would put on a list of things to tell the company before they leave.

Staying teachable will help maintain effective leadership. "If you are a leader of any age, never, ever, ever stop learning," she said. "Every generation has something to learn, and something to teach."