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July 2020

Millennial Leadership – Lenka Los, WMC Toronto, talks about the urgent need for next-gen leadership development programs!

a Lenka Los 036 resizeLenka Los is an Executive Search Consultant at WMC ( - AGILIUM WORLDWIDE member in Canada - and also leads the firm’s Innovation Practice. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Millennials are the largest and most diverse generation to date. They are already in the workforce, and they’re already climbing the corporate ladder.

According to the Harvard Business Review the average age of first-time managers is 30, yet the average age of people in leadership training is closer to 42. It’s time to identify the leaders and help them develop the skills they will need to lead the next generations in the workforce.

One trend that is creating disruption in the workplace today is the multi-generational workforce. At no other time in history have five different generations worked side by side. As veteran leaders (boomers) retire, younger managers are muscling their way into the leadership ranks much earlier, in some industries 30 years of age and younger.

Millennial Leaders

To be elevated to management at age 30 is not common, so these folks are obviously high potentials. They also possess traits that make them stand out as leaders. Unlike older generations, younger leaders welcome change and will champion it.  They pursue achievement relentlessly, they are results-oriented and not afraid of stretch-goals, and are therefore highly receptive to feedback and dedicated to continuous improvement.

These characteristics will put next-gen leaders in good stead - more of them will be required to take on leadership roles as boomers retire. But research also tells us that while they are capable of stepping into leadership ranks, they will still be challenged on many fronts.

It’s often cited that older team members are generally uncomfortable reporting to a young manager, but peers also don’t trust young leaders’ ideas and especially their judgment. This is largely attributable to their lack of experience and deeper organizational knowledge. While young leaders may inspire their peers, those peers do not necessarily regard them as role models. With their rapid ascent, young leaders are not truly relatable to their peers and are sometimes viewed as callous. 

Not being time-tested, young leaders are also perceived as being naïve, more shortsighted and therefore less strategic than veteran leaders. Having limited experience also gives the impression that they lack the gravitas required to be the face of an organization and respond to the tough questions.

A Leadership Deficit

Leadership challenges vary depending on the person and the environment, but for all leaders, navigating through volatility, uncertainty, complex issues and ambiguity is a top priority. For young leaders this can prove to be doubly challenging: not only are they disadvantaged by not having the benefit of experience to draw on, they are also still developing their leadership capabilities. Furthermore, while the average age of first-time managers is 30, the average age of people in leadership training is closer to 42. So, while leadership ability is the single most predictive factor of organizational success, it is commonly cited that we are now confronting a leadership deficit.

Only Ten Percent Of Leaders Possess Key Leadership Behaviors

Common leadership behaviors such as collaboration, teamwork, relationship building, strategic thinking and effective communication, are critical to address the pace of change and complex problems we face today. However, only 10% of leaders actually possess these behaviors. If organizations are to thrive, it’s imperative that they do more to identify next-gen leaders and help them develop the skills they will need to lead. Millennials are already well represented in management ranks yet leadership development eludes them.

Paradigm Shift

Modern leaders walk the talk; they exhibit not only the confidence to be accountable for decisions, but also the humility to be capable of change and lead through the process. As stated earlier, these are the very areas where millennials are already facing challenges.

Given the generational shift that is taking place in the workplace, it is incumbent on organizations to nurture millennial talent. With their drive for results, coupled with a high degree of receptivity to coaching and continuous improvement, leadership development for this cohort is a sound investment.

Rather than skills, next-gen, in fact all, leaders need support to work on mindset and activation of EQ. This entails moving from individualism to collectivism, sharing power versus holding on to it, embracing ambiguity, and taking the vulnerable path.

WMC’s Next-Gen Leadership Development Programs are tailored to meet sector-specific needs, and focus on the critical behaviors needed to address the pace of change and complex problems we face today.

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