Photo courtesy of Tim Gouw

Millennials as Leaders: How to Make it Work

  • Listen. It’s as simple and as hard as that. Whether you’re the young executive or the older employee, listening to each other’s ideas, experiences, and abilities is the best way to bridge gaps. Often, difficulties in the new executive’s ideas are a result of misunderstandings and misperceptions in the younger person’s abilities.
  • Loosen the reins. This goes for both sides. While older generations may cling to their older ways (including with technology), younger generations may think they have to rule with an iron fist to get respect. Neither side will work together if they don’t let go a little bit.
  • Link the old and the new. The new executive auditing process is a time to introduce the idea of combining old and new practices. Maybe the older executives can show the newcomer the systems that work really well, and the newcomer can show the senior execs the areas where new technology or ideas could improve output.

At the end of the day, though, the 3 L’s all come back to communication. If your team is not communicating, it doesn’t matter how old or young you are — you haven’t learned anything.

Gain Respect as a Millennial Executive

For those young execs and leaders hoping to gain the respect of their elder coworkers and peers, there’s only one true way to do so: Show up. Be consistent and do the work with your team. Also engage in:

  • Conflict management. Don’t just play nice or shut your team down to keep them under control. Sit them down, work through problems, and communicate.
  • Progress for the future. Help them make progress every day. Soon, your team will see that your ideas are improving the work and they’ll respect your efforts.
  • Honesty regarding your knowledge base. The truth is you’re young, and you have decades less experience than your peers and even some employees. Let them know when you need help when you don’t know something, and let them share their expertise.

Pass on the Torch

Inevitably, this younger generation will be in the shoes of the people they are leading and replacing now. That’s the beauty of leadership; it’s passed on.

When you focus on making that transition as smooth as possible, commit to learning from one another, and keep the end goal (the company) in mind, it won’t matter who is leading. All that will matter is that ideal changes are being made that improve the company and its bottom line!

Carl is a business psychologist and leadership development expert who focuses on the development of high performance leaders.

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