That Millennial Thing: How to Train & Develop a New Generation of Leaders


Are great leaders made or born?

It’s a question we’ve long debated on CMSWire — here and here and even here.

And while there are valid arguments both ways, one thing is clear: Everyone, including the most natural born leaders, can benefit from training and development.

That fact is especially clear today as Corporate America struggles under the weight of a formidable demographic shift. And it all revolves around the exit of the baby boomers and the rise of the millennials.

From Baby Boomers to Millennials

Baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, were the largest generation in the workforce until the millennials came along. The baby boom workforce peaked in size at nearly 66 million in 1997, Pew Research reports.

But most of the boomers are already retired. And the workforce now is dominated by millennials.

In the US, roughly 73 million millennials were born between 1980 and 1996, US Census data shows. Millennials are unattached, connected, unconstrained and idealistic, at least if you believe Gallup.

Gallup has found that four themes collectively describe. And during the next few years, over one fourth of all current millennial workers will enter management.

Are Millennials Ready to Manage?

Arguably, no. As far back as 2014, business leaders were complaining that higher education institutions in the U.S. were graduating students who fail meet their businesses’ needs

Blame much of the disconnect on generational differences. Millennials are, among other things:

  • Fiercely Independent so may need to improve their collaboration Skills
  • Globally and networked focused; baby boomers focused on relationships and results
  • Willing and eager to take risks and don’t mind making mistakes, which they consider learning opportunities
  • At ease in teams, but less loyal to the corporate team than boomers
  • Are not good at personal communication because they grew up with technical ways of communicating

It’s the Baby Boomers Fault

No one is more to blame for the attitudes of millennials than the people who reared them — and that largely means baby boomers. Millennials grew up more sheltered than any other generation as parents strived to protect them from the evils of the world.

So they had fewer opportunities to develop necessary leadership skills.

What’s more, in the digital era, leaders need a different set of skills. This includes social and emotional intelligence, skills that have not routinely been taught or emphasized but crucial in today’s corporate environment.

Developing New Leaders

The first step in addressing the leadership gap is identifying people within your organization with the potential to fill management roles. The ideal candidates:

  • Learn from their mistakes
  • Roll with the changes
  • See other points of view
  • Persevere through tough times
  • Do well in teams and relationship building
  • Welcome mavericks into the mix
  • Possess a strong work ethic
  • Find a line of work that aligns with their passions
  • Share knowledge freely
  • Desire to make a positive impact on the world

Filling the Leadership Void

To build a new generation of leaders requires business to acknowledge two things. First, that there is a lack of leadership skills in most organizations today. Second, the world has changed — and yesterday’s leadership training won’t cut it.

Acknowledging these problems is the first step toward fixing them. How can you do this? Take a look at this infographics on fixing the leadership gap from Genesa Leadership Institute.

Brian Wallace is the president of NowSourcing, an industry leading infographic design agency based in Louisville, Ky. and works with companies that range from small business to Fortune 500. Brian also runs a local event to make Louisville a more competitive city (#thinkbig) and has been named a 2016 Google Small Business Advisor.


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