What skills and mindsets do millennial leaders need to be successful?

[See also: Coaching millennial leaders]

The millennial generation (those born in the last 35 years or so) is close to being the single biggest demographic group in the workplace. As they move into leadership roles, are millennials any different to previous cohorts of leaders?

Well, it is certainly true that they are the first to grow up in a digital world where the Internet is a fact of life, and at a recent Performance1 meeting we shared a lively conversation with colleagues, clients, and millennials themselves about the skills and mindsets millennial leaders need to be successful.

We concluded that good leadership fundamentals are no different whether you’re a millennial leader or a more mature one, but that leadership has evolved in several ways due to the changing business landscape. Most organizations now have matrix structures, with multiple stakeholders, rapid time pressures, in VUCA contexts (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) that the following skills we identified are critical for ALL leaders who seek to thrive.

We divided them into two headings, 1. Leading Others and 2. Leading Self:


Leading Self

Several of these skills and mindsets have grown in importance when leading oneself and others.

  • Particularly the ability to explore and articulate Why? Why are we doing this? Why should you want to follow me? Why should I persevere if I encounter strong resistance in a more conventional organisation?
  • A greater emphasis on managing self skilfully. In order to be more resilient in the face of fast change, more confident, and more transparent about your motivation.
  • The ability to lead change at speed. Including working with less structured teams, provoking useful disruption and innovation.

Back to the question. Are these changes in Leadership capability about the personalities of millenials or the environment that we all are living in, millennial or not? Personally I think the latter – this is the world we now live in. Although my one regret about the session is that most of us present are involved in consulting to or working in traditional organisations, especially in financial and professional services, so we didn’t hear from any tech entrepreneurs and the like despite our best efforts to recruit from our networks. We would love to hear more in response to this post.

~ William Winstone