As more and more Millennials enter the workforce seeking to make their impact – which they indeed will – now is a good time to review the role of leadership in the 21st Century.
These young, creative minds are looking for a culture of inclusion, in an environment of involvement that listens to and acts on their ideas and observations. The leader in 2016 needs to be a guide and an influencer to help shape and bring out the best in others.
What is influence? It is the capacity or power of a person to be a compelling force on actions, behavior and opinions.
For most of us, the early influences in our lives are our parents. We strive for their love and approval. We emulate their good traits. They teach us self-confidence and offer sound advice. We marvel at the congruence between their actions and words and clearly view them as our role models (in most cases.)
Parents control us in a loving way through our early years. As we reach adulthood, we want control over our lives. The reality is, the world is mutually dependent. How many of us control our daily lives and our time? In today’s stressful work world, we are hungry for leaders (people) who do not attempt to control us but rather to influence us.
To me, an enlightened leader is someone who strives to influence us through “positive intent.” They have a positive regard for us. Listen to understand and engage us in the pursuit of a shared mission.
The essence of positive influence is to involve your associates (employees) in the direction and strategy of the company. To let up on the controls, and allow people to get ownership, and to succeed or to fail. So, that failing is a learning experience.
We can all recall teaching a child to ride a two-wheel bike. At some point we let go of the back fender and push the bike forward. In most cases the child falls, and we encourage them to try again. A good example of intentional positive influence and trust.
Encouraging associates to keep an open mind, and to innovate, as well as challenge the status quo may be the pinnacle of positive leadership influence. In order to drive growth, employees need fertile, expansive and dynamic company culture and leaders.
They need you to let go of the fender and push the bike forward. Intentional, positive leaders grant their associates the power to move forward toward action, in the face of imperfect information. How is that for trusting your co-workers?
Projecting concern and “touch” are key elements of leadership; we need to like our leaders. Successful leaders lead by living each day, with a strong set of values. Values and trust go hand in hand.
Trust will open the minds, eyes and hearts of the people around you. Leaders of intentional positive influence practice and hone their active listening skills. They turn off their smart phone, turn away from their computer and face the person speaking. They avoid being distracted, and stay in the moment.
The leaders who have a positive influence on Millennials understand their values, and the positives they bring to the workplace:
- Work/life balance
- The freedom for self-expression
- The importance of doing meaningful work
- Time to network
- The need to be rewarded for their contributions
- A high degree of honesty
Millennials are motivated by accomplishment, independence, close relationships and a strong desire to be respected. They seek additional responsibility early in their careers. The effective influential leader can satisfy the needs of the Millennials by developing ways to make their jobs more relevant and in line with the goals of the employee.
Lead with care and flexibility, always seeking input, offering mentoring and open communications. Provide a forum for Millennials to challenge issues. Practicing a leadership style that emphasizes a trusting reciprocal relationship will prove very effective.
As Millennials continue to replace Baby Boomers, company cultures will change. They will bring their talents, ideas and their amazing technology knowledge to the party. Information-sharing will be taken to a new level, as Millennials see life in optimistic terms.
What exciting times for organizations! Millennials are continuous learners, team players, collaborators, diverse, optimistic, achievement-oriented, highly educated and socially conscious.
Indeed millennials are driving change, and seek to do work they are proud of. The role of the influential leader is to provide them with opportunities to influence decisions, projects, structure, and culture and to engage their talents to assist others. What remarkable times we live in!
To the millennials out there: I say, bring us your “influence,” your curiosity, passion, challenges and dreams. You are the future!