Guest post from Dr. Ranya Nehmeh:
Why do the rest of us act like millennials are from another planet? We have a need to comment on the constant screen gazing, the matcha latte obsession, the job-hopping, the mood swings from apathy to omg…don’t even try to say you don’t know what I’m talking about. Millennials are such a distinct demographic, possessing generation wide characteristics that seem far from the norm, but let’s face it, this is the group that will start dictating the norm, especially in the work place.
Organizations have undergone massive shifts over the last decade in terms of how they operate. The workplace of today is unrecognizable compared to when baby boomers (born between 1946 – 64) started their careers. Work spaces, technology, demographics, cultural sensitivities, and remote working are but a few of the areas that have changed. Boomers instigated many of these changes to adapt the workplace to fit their needs. But now that they are starting to retire, what will happen to their stable work approach and traditional top-down leadership practices?
Thanks, but no thanks Boomer, is what the tech-savvy, confident millennials (born between 1980 - 2000) are saying. They prefer a bottoms-up approach, and want to feel involved and valued in the workplace. They have no interest in being told how things are done, or how things work. They also have different ideas about what constitutes a good leader. This has contributed to a leadership gap: what millennials expect vs. what they are getting from their leaders.
With the onset of a new decade, it is predicted that millennials will make up almost half of the American workforce, so it is time for organizations to pay attention and minimize this leadership gap in order to embrace, as opposed to alienate, this valuable group of workers. The key is to stop trying to lead millennials by using generic leadership approaches, and start looking for innovative ideas that speak to this specific target group, or better yet, just start by listening.
So where do we start? Well, we need to ask them what they want and not scoff at their responses. That’s what I did. I went straight to the source and conducted an extensive survey of over 700 millennials from around the globe. And so, after dozens of conversations, and a few too many matcha lattes, I had a much better understanding of what they wanted. There was consistency in what they were asking for, which was a leadership style that was in sync with the times (technology, social media, ethics, respect) and catered to their needs, perspectives and strengths. Nine clear leadership traits emerged. I took the first letter of each trait and came up with the word … CHAMELEON.
The ideal leader of millennials would possess these nine traits…The CHAMELEON Leader.
During the survey, one of the questions asked participants if their leadership expectations were met when they joined the workplace; 62% said no. This statistic is alarming and highlights that millennials’ leadership expectations are, for the most part, not being met. Of course we like to say their expectations are unrealistic, but if you take a look at them you will realize that they are very in tune with the world we live in, and the world we hope to live in.
The CHAMELEON Leader is meant to provide the bridge between expectation and reality. Why a chameleon? Because chameleons change color according to the situation. They are adaptable!
This new decade, which will be ripe with environmental concerns, instability, and technology booms, requires a new leadership model. Leaders who are ready to embrace this young and ambitious generation and lead them energetically into the future will require a shift in mind-set, a visionary approach, a willingness to collaborate not dictate, inspire not conspire, but most importantly to get excited about the potential benefits of having this generation on board. Being a chameleon leader for millennials means finding out what is important to them and creating an authentic way to communicate that understanding.