The word is Millennials. It's a topic as big as the Keto diet, and publishers, social media companies, and other organizations are cashing in on its popularity. Hey, it's a great way to make a buck. Just do a google search for two simple words, Millennials and Workforce, and watch the hundreds of thousands of results that will surface.
The messages being disseminated relate to such topics as "What millennials want from their managers" or "When dealing with millennials, a new type of leadership is needed" as if leadership as we know it is somehow outdated in some way. These types of topics are fantastic marketing tactics, but they couldn't be further from the truth. I've read these books, and I've read these articles because I, too, strive to remain current in my industry. What's fascinating is, when it comes to real Leadership, most of the stuff I read was not saying anything new!
For example, some articles had a theme of "What Millennials Need in a Boss" or words to that effect. I don't want to name a publisher of sorts because I don't believe in badmouthing another author or company. The articles said in a nutshell; that Millennials want to be "appreciated, mentored, and inspired." That they needed their bosses to be "good listeners, coaching, understanding and not afraid to get their hands dirty." Um, hello? Do you see my point here? That's not just what Millennials want; that's what every good employee wants, and it's what real leadership strives to provide! If you genuinely understand leadership, then you know there is no "special way" of leading millennials or any other generation. Leadership is leadership, so don't listen when others say we need a new way of leading.
So why is this happening? Well, aside from the money-making angle mentioned previously, it's really quite simple. It's a matter of perception. Let me explain. Sadly, the number of managers in today's workforce dramatically outweighs the number of real leaders among them. The fact is, authentic leadership is hard to come by; always has and always will be.
For example, take an intelligent 25-year-old aspiring executive who happens to be working for a crappy boss who's in his late 60s, and the wrong conclusion can quickly be drawn. It's easy to associate that bad boss's "leadership style" with an old-outdated way of doing things. The fact of the matter is, the crappy boss was not exuding any real leadership at all! He was just a lousy boss, and in the absence of genuine leadership, it's only natural for a young inexperienced executive to assume what he or she is experiencing is some form of leadership. Well, it's not! Nevertheless, the association has been made and is now widely publicized. Unfortunately, this misinformation only leads to more negative generalizations between different generations.
Lastly, because of the positive advances in technology and an ever-changing, more family-based culture, the corporate working environment has changed drastically, and I believe for the better. The days of windowless rooms full of 6-foot tall cubicles and business-dressed work-a-bees are quickly being replaced with open "no-walls" team atmospheres filled with jeans and sandals and "bring your pet" workdays. Working remotely from a satellite location or even from home is becoming more commonplace, not to mention things like extended maternity leave for both parents! So yes, the working environment in today's corporate world has changed drastically; however, the elements of real leadership have not.
IN SUMMARY: Today's working generation we call Millennials is a fantastic group of intelligent, creative, tolerant, and caring people. They are no different from a management perspective than those before them. And as with all current and future generations, whether you like it or not, they are and will become the future leaders of this world.
So, we have a choice. We can continue to generalize and patronize the different generations, or we can come together, learn together, and help lead each other to success.