5 Traits of Millennial Leadership – Part 1

For the past several months, our team of researchers have dug through many articles, discussed what they have learned and explored their own desires concerning leadership as being Millennials. This article lists the five points we have learned so far.

This article is the first in a series of articles based on our research, analysis and findings. The articles in the series are

Additionally, Millennial Leadership Initiative – View Our Preliminary Findings Video contains our presentation at Pennsylvania State University – Abington Campus.

5 Traits of Millennial Leadership

Point 1: Respect

Millennials understand respect for current leaders is important. They also want to be respected by the leadership. Respect is always a two-way street. By showing disrespect from either side, the other party is immediately alienated and the relationship breaks down. As a result of the damaged relationship, the leader has little to no influence.

Millennials need to be respected for what they know. Because they grew up in an age of hyper-technology, they think differently than the older generation and as a result, come at problems in dissimilar manners. These manners may bring about challenging questions by which the leader should not be offended or become defensive, but consider their viewpoint because the questions may lead to answers. Millennials don’t expect all their questions to be correct or in the proper direction, but at least being heard and considered goes a long way in showing respect. And this is not too dissimilar to any generation’s desire – to be heard and taken under consideration.

Point 2: Appreciated

Millennials are eager to do the work assigned to them. They are eager to perform and complete the tasks at hand. They are eager to participate. After all, in majority of cases, they participated in team sports and competitions. They know the feeling of winning and losing.

#millennialleadership, millennial leadershipWhen leaders show appreciation for the work being done by millennial workers, it provides the workers with a sense of pride and accomplishment. They want to know they are part of the team and helping to move the project forward. Again, which generation does not want to feel appreciated for their work?

Point 3: Doing Something of Significance

Millennials want to know what they are working on is making an impact, making a difference for the company. They understand there are menial tasks that must be performed, but they want to feel their efforts contribute to the success of the company.

We have all worked those situations which were boring and in the end, had no impact or significance. At the time, it might have appeared to be important, but in the end, the project was canceled or abandoned and the result useless. Those situation are understandable, but if day-to-day work doesn’t amount to anything, then we all become demoralized.

Leaders need to provide the vision which leads to meaningful and productive activity.

Point 4: Adaptability

Leaders need to adapt to the situation at hand and to the people involved. One-way does not fit all. It never did and never will. Different situations require different approaches. For example, in emergency situations, the leader may become more dictatorial and demand certain actions. The followers will most #millennialleadership, millennial leadershiplikely follow. But under normal conditions, if the leader continues in the dictator mode, the followers will resent the heavy-handed approach and eventually rebel.

As the team composition changes or the environment, market factors, upper management, etc. varies, the leader must adapt accordingly. Again, this concept of adaptability is just good leadership anyway. There is nothing new here concerning the millennials. It seems they desire good leadership models.

Hmm, maybe it is not the millennials we should focus on, but those people who currently hold leadership positions who don’t really understand leadership!

Point 5: Trust

In many cases, millennials have put in long hours of study to learn their skills and have the loans to prove it. In other cases, in addition to their education, they have spent years in the workforce and have experience harden by the reality of mistakes, corrections and leading by other employees and life in general. They want to be able to exercise that knowledge. They want to be trusted to do the job. Leaders need to delegate authority and responsibility to these workers and trust the job will get done.

Some leaders have been hesitant to delegate authority and responsibility. This attitude makes no sense. When they were younger, they were eager to prove themselves. Their leaders and management gave them opportunities to prove themselves, otherwise, they would not be in the position they are in today. Leaders need to trust the millennial will get the work done. Delegate the authority and responsibility to do so.


When we sit back and look at the situation, the millennials are no different than many of us when we were their age. We remember applying for jobs to start our careers and the job requirements stated experience was necessary. We often wondered how do we gain experience if experience is needed to get the job in the first place. Eventually, someone took the risk and hired us. We grew into the position.

As we researchers discussed the articles we read and our desires concerning leadership traits, we came to the realization that our leaders probably had the same concerns about us when we started our careers as current leaders have about millennials today. Are they capable? Can they get the job done? What if they make mistakes? How can we hand off our positions and know it will be successful? The fact is, just as we learned through our successes and failures, the next generation will do the same.

The difference may be in the fact we, the current leadership, have raised the millennial generation. One of the things we taught them was to not kowtow to the whims of poor leadership. And maybe, just maybe, we are not as confident in our ability as leaders to withstand the very trait we taught our millennials. We will cover that in future articles.

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