Oh how the times have changed for leaders…

Contrary to popular opinion, the millennial generation is full of motivated people who can have profound impacts on the people, places and organizations around them IF they have the right leadership in place to help them succeed.  But most leaders aren’t ready to have that conversation.  My experience has shown me that many leaders prefer to make comments about the lack of work ethic and motivation in the millennial generation but those comments are often unfounded.  The reality is, times have changed and that leaves us as leaders with a choice to make.  Do we blame the clear differences among generations for the disconnect between us as leaders and our followers or do we accept our responsibility as leaders to adapt and find ways to be productive and build meaningful relationships with those we lead?

The “tough love” leadership style that molded earlier generations just isn’t received well anymore.  As challenging as that may be to accept, it’s the simple reality of the world we live in.  But an adjusted leadership approach is often all it takes to bring out the motivation and work ethic that so many believe is missing from my generation.  As soon as leaders accept that the needs of our followers have changed and its our responsibility to adapt our leadership approach to meet those changing needs, the easier our lives as leaders become.

Of course this is easier said than done for myself included.  I consider myself an “old soul” so this concept has been difficult for me to accept despite being a millennial myself.  See, I grew up on a heavy dose of intensity, firm direction and discipline as core components of my understanding of leadership.  My father and grandmother both yelled more than most of my drill sergeants in the Army but that “passionate” (and vocal) leadership style worked for me.  I understood what was expected of me and definitely understood the consequences of not meeting those expectations.

Then after those three and a half years in the Army where “do as I say leadership” reined supreme, it was hard for me to accept that most of my generation doesn’t respond well to the leadership style I had grown so accustomed to.  When I transitioned into my first leadership roles as a civilian, I struggled accepting that my understanding of leadership needed to change.

But here’s what I realized…

If people weren’t going to respond well to the leadership style that I was used to, then it was time to try something new.  If our goal as leaders is to motivate a team of people to accomplish a collective goal then what sense does it make to keep using a leadership approach that doesn’t accomplish that objective?  Eventually, we must decide that things aren’t working despite our experience doing things a certain way.  Times have changed and we must be willing to change with the times if we want to be successful as leaders for years to come.  There is no doubt that the millennial generation is unique but I am confident that my generation is full of incredible people who are capable of incredible things and it is our responsibility as leaders to  help them achieve that greatness.

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