In 2014, I worked with Deloitte on a survey that assessed the state of millennial leadership across the globe. We quickly learned that millennials were not the kids anymore. Instead, fully half of our respondents consider themselves leaders, with decision-making authority and direct reports. And they want to do things a bit differently than their predecessors.
When we asked millennial professionals about the most important actions required of future leaders, they cited the ability to develop skills in others, the ability to inspire, encourage, and motivate others, and the ability to foster an inclusive work environment.
Millennials diverged from prior generations in their significant emphasis on inclusion. For millennials, workplace diversity is mandatory and they expect team members to be treated with the same level of respect and dignity regardless of their gender, ethnicity, and experience level.
Defining the Ideal Leader
Perhaps due to the impact of globalization, we found surprising cross-cultural similarities in how millennials portrayed the future business world and described their perfect leader. There were, however, subtle differences. For instance, millennials in more mature markets such as Germany and the United Kingdom admire leaders who solicit and take action on their feedback while explaining business contexts and communicating a vision.
Less developed markets like Brazil and Mexico like leaders who encourage risks and provide constructive feedback and resources. Across all geographies, millennials expect 21st century leaders to be more transparent – departing from the baby boomer model of leader as distant and autocratic.
Many working millennials came of age at a time when senior executives were under increased scrutiny due to ethical violations, which may explain their desire for future leaders to be truthful and trustworthy. These traits were consistently listed as the most critical leadership characteristics among millennials in most geographies.
Acquiring the Right Skill Sets
There was substantial agreement among millennials in most geographies regarding the areas millennials most need to develop in order to be ready for leadership. Millennials most frequently listed taking more risks, focusing, and communicating effectively as their top development must-dos.
Millennial professionals also have clear ideas on the type of experiences that will accelerate their development. They would most like to achieve a goal despite challenges, build a team from scratch, and gain cross-functional expertise. The goal achievement experience, along with managing a team responsible for a key business outcome, was most important to millennials in the emerging markets of Brazil, China, and Mexico.
In the more established markets of Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States, millennials want to have assigned mentors and the opportunity to work with high-ranking executives.