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How Millennials Define Leadership


Thu Mar 09 2017

How Millennials Define Leadership
How Millennials Define Leadership-ea9ba7619eb1e9d43870d68539c30386e789c4b3a1cd1070eb680b883f9a1a3b

It’s the big question many people ask: What’s the difference between a manager and a leader? Some tend to fit these two into the same category, while others see a distinct difference between how to manage and how to lead. However, the bigger question that even more are asking is: With Millennials becoming the majority of the workforce, how does the current manager lead this unique generation in a way that maximizes their potential?

All people want to be led, regardless of their generation. Read any of John C. Maxwell’s books and you will find this statement to be the foundation of a great leader. But leadership is a broad term and can be interpreted in a variety of ways. Depending on who you ask, a leader might mean someone of authority who exerts a great amount of power and influence over peers. Others might say that a leader is someone who inspires and motivates individuals and groups to do their best work and thrive with unlimited potential. 


How Would You Define a Leader? 

According to the 2015 Millennial Survey conducted by Deloitte, more than 7800 Millennials (Born after 1983) agreed on six characteristics that Millennials find consistent with the definition of a “true leader.” One could certainly argue that these are characteristics that ALL leaders should have, but because an increasing majority of the workforce will be filled with this generation in the next 10 years, it will be important for managers and senior leaders to ensure that these competencies are represented by those who will be serving in supervisory roles for Millennials.

Here are the top six characteristics that Deloitte found when they asked the following question to Millennials: Thinking about individuals and in a business context, how do you define a true leader? 

Strategic Thinker

Leaders need to be able to anticipate changing business environments, think critically, analyze data, and align their actions with the needs of the business and the employees. Strategic thinkers are able to take the right action at the right time and be able to see the big picture, yet focus on a certain area. 


Inspirational leaders have the capability to motivate their employees and be a source of positive influence. They can make employees love what they hate and make the undesirable desirable. Inspirational leaders also have the ability to, as Liz Wiseman puts it, multiply their employees’ knowledge base instead of diminish it. 

Interpersonally Skilled 

Interpersonally-skilled leaders can communicate well and build partnerships with others in order to foster business success. They have a way of winning with people and a unique impact on others. They know how to get what they want, when they want it and how they want it. 



Leaders should always thinking about the next innovation and how the future is shaping the way the company does business. Visionary leaders are those who have the ability to cast a vision and execute it. Visionaries do not think in terms of “this is the way we have always done it, so that’s the way it’s going to be.” Instead they take the fresh mindset of “how can we improve upon our current practices to be even better and reach our goals.” 


Great leaders have the ability to make sound business decisions and stick with them. They should work in decisive fashion, holding their word and saying exactly what they mean. Leaders also should be comfortable being open, honest, and trustworthy when it comes to decision making. 


Leaders should have a great deal of passion. The survey concluded that Millennials are more concerned with a company’s overall purpose and passion for doing business rather than simply focusing on financial results and profit margin (although they agree that those are important points as well). Millennials want to be in passionate jobs and they want their leaders to be passionate as well. 

Bottom Line 

Overall, according to the survey, Millennials would prefer to place greater emphasis on employee wellbeing, growth, and development and less on personal income, rewards, and short-term financial goals. Millennials believe that how organizations treat their employees is of paramount importance when evaluating leadership. If you are leading Millennials in your organization (or any generation), make sure these competencies are within your skill set to get the most out of your employees.

For more insights from Dan Schwartz on how to be a Ground Floor Leader, check out his sessions at ATD 2017 Conference & Exposition.


Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared at www.groundfloorleadership.com.

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