My passionate belief has been, and is today, that leadership is a
matter of how to be, not how to do. Yet it is what leaders do - not
what leaders are - that others see and judge. So what can a leader
- Define a clear vision that has its foundation in the
- Give regular feedback.
- Provide meaningful work.
- Recognize the importance of teamwork and inclusion.
- Provide opportunities to lead sooner.
- Balance communication methods.
- Inspire commitment and keep millennials engaged.
- Make work enjoyable.
- Find ways for millennials to serve society.
These nine keys are critical for leaders to meet the challenges and
provide opportunities for the workforce of the future, which
includes staff from four generational groups - traditionalists,
baby boomers, Generation X, and millennials. Because most leaders
have figured out how to work with earlier generations, these keys
focus mostly on emerging leaders, the leaders of the future.
Define a clear vision with its foundation in the
Most leaders are far more comfortable with defining, executing, and
measuring today's efforts than grappling with tomorrow's needs. Too
often, the vision is a mere projection of more of today than of
something truly different for tomorrow. This lack of prospecting
has caused some leading organizations to decline over the past few
years. Leaders plan strategically, taking into account all the
possibilities. Start with a solid set of values that lend integrity
to the vision, and define a vision that will inspire all your
Give regular feedback
Leaders can't provide too much feedback. And it does need to be
provided often. It must be honest and candid. The workforce of the
future has a constant need for feedback, and this provides them
with the inspiration and motivation for growth and development.
Praise, acknowledgment, and recognition, along with course
correction and suggestions for other options, are part of the
feedback people need and desire.
Provide meaningful work
The members of the workforce of the future grew up in a fast-moving
world. They have their fingers on the pulse of changing technology.
They multitask and enjoy a challenge. They need projects that
utilize their knowledge and skills and that connect with their
philosophical and deeper interests. They contact people around the
world and depend on the Internet to deliver vast amounts of data
about any topic. They are interested in learning and developing in
their jobs, and moving into new and challenging opportunities. They
will leave when they think a job has become meaningless or that
they are no longer learning and growing.
Recognize the importance of teamwork and inclusion
The millennial generation is considered the most open generation of
all. For them, inclusion and diversity are a way of life, and they
see themselves as part of a global community to which everyone
belongs. They want to be connected with teams at work and with
customers. They are good at leveraging the efforts of others to
achieve results and at sharing rewards. If they are new to the
workforce, it is important that leaders encourage them to become
involved in teams where their contribution will be recognized and
Provide opportunities to lead sooner
Providing opportunities to lead sooner is one thing the U.S.
military does very well. For example, Warren Bennis was only 19
years of age when he led his first U.S. Army platoon in World War
II in Germany. This experience showed him how critical it was to
rely on his platoon members. Thrust into the situation, he learned
that he needed to trust his team to help him be their leader. Look
for projects and assignments where millennials have a chance to
Balance communication methods
Text messaging is a main communication vehicle for millennials.
Instant messages can take the place of phone calls, and email can
take the place of face-to-face visits. Because person-to- person
conversation may be a struggle, leaders must create opportunities
for millennials to develop their networking and speaking skills.
And when leaders listen intently to the staff they are guiding, the
benefits are immeasurable. They learn about the staff's needs and
expertise, can identify better ways to work, and in so doing
demonstrate that they care about the staff and their ideas. This
helps build trust.
Inspire commitment and keeping millennials engaged
Ensure that millennials have reasons to continue with your
organization. They will stay longer when they know the organization
is invested in their careers and leadership development. Promoting
from within signals that the organization values developing its own
people. Ensure that leaders are open and accessible to millennials.
This helps younger workers see how they are part of the
organization. They value authenticity and transparency, which keep
Make work enjoyable
Find ways to have fun in the workplace. This is not a new concept,
but the people entering the workforce today take it to new levels.
They look for excuses to celebrate. They expect to find fun and
excitement along the way, in the doing, along with positive
relationships and inclusion.
Find ways for millennials to serve society
For millennials, being true to themselves equates with being
personally and socially responsible. They advocate reducing,
reusing, recycling, repurposing, rescuing, and remembering. So
enable them to reduce their carbon footprint; reuse wrapping paper,
clothes, and goods that are no longer useful to others; recycle
paper, plastic, and aluminum cans; repurpose everything from pill
bottles to entire rooms; rescue cats and dogs from shelters; and
remember those around the world who need support and concern.
Leaders must find ways to support this deeply felt need to help
others. This is the generation for whom "to serve is to live."
Hesselbein on Leadership, by Frances Hesselbein,
Note: This article is excerpted from Chapter 24,
"Leading the Workforce of the Future," of
The ASTD Leadership Handbook, edited by Elaine Biech.
Frances Hesselbein is chairman of the board of governors at the
Leader to Leader Institute and editor-in-chief of Leader to
Leader. She was a founding president and CEO of the Institute,
previously known as the Peter F. Drucker Foundation for Nonprofit
Management, from 1990 to 1998. Before that, she served as the CEO
of Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. from 1976 to 1990. She currently sits
on a variety of nonprofit and private sector corporate boards and
has co-edited a selection of books, the most recent of which is The
Organization of the Future 2. She is also a recipient of the United
States' highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
2010 ASTD, Alexandria, VA. All rights reserved.