The common perception among millennials when you talk about leadership is that people should have a certain title (i.e. manager or director), have people reporting to them or have a certain amount of money in the bank to be called a leader. But the contrary is true. Leadership has nothing to do with the title you have on your business card or the amount of money in your bank account. Leadership is a matter of the mind and influence.

Shift focus to helping others

I’ve built a variety of businesses across different industries, from fashion to e-commerce and from small with only a few employees to over four hundred employees. Becoming a leader is sometimes a controversial topic and I’ve often heard employees saying they’re “not yet ready” to become a leader. But when we change the discussion into helping other people, the paradigm suddenly shifts and leadership becomes an easier topic. Helping other people just sounds more natural, but essentially is what leaders are supposed to do.

Leading well is not about enriching yourself - it's about empowering others. ~ John C. Maxwell Click To Tweet

We live in a time where the definition of leadership needs to change to a much more horizontal and diagonal dimension instead of the traditional vertical approach, also known as the top-down. Especially with the rising millennials, that embrace developing leadership skills, in todays workforce and “disruption” being a daily activity, it becomes more important to distribute leadership throughout the organisation on every level.

A team with leaders at every level will beat any team with leadership centralized at the top. Click To Tweet

Millennial leadership

To build an organisation which has a horizontal & diagonal leadership approach, you need to cultivate 5 key skills in every millennial leader. The below 5 skills can transform your organisation from a rigid cruise ship to an agile jetski in a jiffy:

1. Add value to other people.

Leadership is about adding value to other people. This is a crucial mindset that everyone in the organisation should embrace. Truly caring about the people on a team and understanding what motivates them, will take leaders far in accomplishing any business goal. Because to add value you need to understand what value is needed in a specific moment in time. The most important element behind achieving any vision is the team. If the team members don’t understand what their role is in the bigger picture it will be very difficult to achieve any goals.

2. Be flexible and move from plan A-B-C if needed.

This is about being agile, efficient, productive and being able to prioritise the highest-value work that creates results. This also requires leaders to start thinking in outcome first and reverse engineer the path(s). The most highly effective leaders know that being agile and keeping the eyes on the outcome is key. There are always more roads that lead to Rome. Leaders should keep their eyes on Rome, but understand that if road A doesn’t work or there is a hick up, they should adjust course and see and test if road B or C will bring them closer to Rome. Especially in young companies this is a key skill that will make companies more fluid but still have a results driven mindset.

3. Seek different perspectives.

The best ideas can come from the managing director, receptionist or driver. Be open for new perspectives and ask for different opinions. Leadership has nothing to do with titles, so this should be exemplified by asking for different perspectives without feeling robbed of any authority. This requires confident leadership. In an efficient organisation, being a leader isn’t just about people managing people. Instead, it’s about making everyone on your team a leader. If it’s not with a title, then at least they should think like a leader and take responsibility. This encourages employees to submit ideas for improving the organisation and grows a sense of contribution throughout the organisation.

4. Solve problems in the most effective way, not necessarily the fastest or easiest way.

This is really about being a strong and visionary leader who plans a strategy and works hard to execute it. Often leaders assume that as long as they have ideas or a vision it’s enough to lead the way forward. But in reality, good leaders know the importance of planning and clearly spelling out the path ahead. They understand how to balance the short term actions to reach long term sustainable goals.

5. Be an inspiration

Millennials want to be inspired. The days of just executing work are long gone. Generation Y wants to work at a company that goes beyond profits and inspires. This also means that leadership is about inspiration, and that moving people to action takes creating an emotional connection with others. Facts and context are important,but it’s building real relationships that will make the most impact. Inspirational leaders first figure out what employees want and need to do their jobs better, then give managers better tools for motivating their staffs.

What are you thoughts on building great millennial leadership? I would love to hear from you.



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