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Leadership – the millennial way

By Gráinne Ní Ghiollagain

Leadership – the millennial way

By Gráinne Ní Ghiollagain, Meetings Millenials

Recently with Meetings+Millennials we did a workshop with Site YL Ireland – an organization that has led the way for young leaders within our industry for years. We only had 20 minutes, but it was a dynamic and interactive session and one with which we were delighted to be involved.

One of our opening slides highlighted three bad characteristics that are associated with millennials, - selfish, entitled and lazy. Our aim was to dispel these clichés and to give us three words that millennials truly stand for – motivated, inspiring and innovative.  But how can we, as millennials, get these characteristics across? How can we help lead the way for this change to happen? To be honest, we can’t unless we learn to understand and bridge the gap between youth and wisdom.

As said by Simon Sinek 'Leadership is not about the next election, it is about the next generation' – it is about communicating and understanding one another and bridging those transgenerational gaps in the workplace so that we can bring out the 'motivated, inspiring, innovative' individual who may end up being the future CEO of his/her company.

When we put the exact generational definition of millennials aside – being young, ambitious and at the starting point of your career is something every leader/manager in a company has gone through at some point in his/her life.  Millennials are not that different, they are not that unique, they are not aliens from outer space – the only difference is the environment in which they have grown up – this fast paced, digitally enhanced, technology enriched environment. The framework is how they view the world, just might be slightly different. And do you know what? Different is good. 'The only thing we know about the future is that it will be different.' (Peter Drucker)

So instead of fearing what the future holds, why not grasp it and learn from it? There is always going to be a fear of losing experience, heritage and wisdom by empowering the younger generation within the workplace – and this is not totally unreasonable, as these are three extremely important elements for any company to be successful in any industry – but these three things only come to a person in one way - by being actively involved in what truly matters – experiencing sales pitches, attending client meetings, and yes, making mistakes. As my colleague Anne Bennevoets put it "If 'the wise' keep having us knocking on the boardroom door instead of sitting in the meeting, there will always be a gap between youth and wisdom."

So how can you lead 'the millennial way’? Keep an open mind – swap 'glasses' with a millennial within your company, ask questions, put yourself in their shoes, let them make mistakes, and above all, start conversations. It might sound scary, it might take time, and it might be uncomfortable – but trust me, it will be worth it. Do you know what? You might even learn a thing or two from that ‘selfish, entitled and lazy’ millennial.

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