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7 Ways Millennials are Changing Leadership

Compared to previous generations, millennials’ values have altered dramatically. Millennials are looking for leaders to inspire and challenge, which can be achieved with increasing collaboration with their colleagues and lower hierarchy.

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Compared to previous generations, millennials’ values have altered dramatically. Millennials are looking for leaders to inspire and challenge, which can be achieved with increasing collaboration with their colleagues and lower hierarchy.

Photo credit: Nakaridore

Millennials, also known as Generation Y, contribute significantly to the workforce globally. It is estimated that in the US alone, millennials will make up over half of the workforce by 2020.

Millennials are a culturally diverse and highly educated group with a reputation for quickly changing jobs and have a distaste for traditional hierarchical and bureaucratic entities. We’re rethinking leadership as the millennials step into the workforce and eventually progress into leadership positions. 

They bring their own priorities, values and ideas to work, which calls for leaders to adjust – whether it is to attract the best and the brightest or keep them dedicated to the company. Inevitable changes in traditional leadership practices and corporate systems are already in play with most progressive of workplaces. 

But even the most traditional work environments are changing the way they work to accommodate a new type of work force. It is no wonder that to understand and manage their expectations, large companies have been focusing on studying the social and behavioral aspects of millennials. 

So, here are 7 ways in which Millennials are changing leadership.

1. Technology

Millennials are more accustomed to use different technological tools, social media, and they praise all things digital. More devices are used in everyday life, which brings the tools into the workplace. 

Millennials are the first truly “tech savvy generation,” often becoming the driving force behind a company’s change from old and clumsy technology to new disruption hardware and software. Working with old tools that do not meet the standards generates unwanted loss of productivity and frustration.

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How are companies adjusting to technological change? One trend is BYOT (Bring Your Own Technology). Employees are encouraged or even asked to use their own technology at work. Allowing employees to use their own devices increases productivity and reduces the time spent learning different technology equipment than what they are used to.

2. Communication platforms

 Email has been the main form of online communication during the past 20 years but with the rise of different messaging services, it is becoming increasingly important to incorporate various ways of corporate communication. 

Pew Research reveals that 81% of Millennials are on Facebook and that 64% of the population say that older adults and young adults use the internet and technology very differently. So it is clear that millennials who grew up with the internet and social media are asking corporations to communicate through suitable channels – email is no longer the one and only communication platform for business.

Whether it is contacting a co-worker via Slack instead of email or having a meeting on Skype, different platforms do not cause issues for Generation Y. For this reason, companies should be finding and adopting more efficient ways to communicate. For bigger and growing companies, internal communication is important and keeps employees engaged and up to date. 

3. The Importance of work-life balance and flexibility at work

There is a common notion that Generation X devotes their time to work over family and leisure. And so it is no surprise that the Generation Y are demanding a more balanced work to life ratio. For millennials, there is more to life than work. 

And there is more to work than just a monthly paycheck. Colleagues are more than just people sitting in the same office building. Work is something that Millennials want to feel passionate about. 

However, Millennials are prepared to work hard and put in the hours if they can balance it with their personal life. Being flexible, and fitting work and personal life together is not only desired by Millennials but also a core aspect for success.

For millennials work-life balance is an evolving concept that changes according to the situation. Some Millennials call for the ability to travel and socialise with friends whereas others are looking to balance family and work. 

This calls for leaders to take into account the changing needs and hopes of millennial employees, especially considering that employees aren’t quitting because of the company, but often because of their manager. When the manager simply doesn’t get it, companies struggle. Millennials will hop on to the next job where the work-life balance is more understood.

Flexibility at work connects strongly to the use of technology and the advances it brings to the everyday work. The majority of jobs are no longer tied down to a place and a time ( with the exception of a few professions) - emails can be checked anywhere at any time, whether sitting in a crowded bus on the way to work, or attending a conference call from halfway across the globe.

Flexible work hours enable employees to structure their days better - avoiding rush hour, taking their children to daycare, scheduling a doctor's appointment, or making it to after work activities. Providing millennial employees more independence to structure their work day generates more efficient use of office space and ability to keep valued staff engaged. 

4. Problems of micromanaging

The Oxford dictionary defines micromanaging as the “control over every part, however small, of (an enterprise or activity)”. In the corporate world and in leadership this turns into a management style where managers breath down your neck and constantly ask for unnecessary reports and updates on progression. It does not come as a surprise that millennials aren’t thrilled about micromanaging in the office. 

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The idea of micro-managing sends chills down the spine of any millennial and scares away the best and the brightest already in the recruiting phase. Bosses should use their time for empowering and challenging their employees not monitoring their every movement thus creating a stressful workplace. 

Flexibility means that managers need to trust their employees – the manager needs to trust that the person they hired is capable of doing their job without constant surveillance. In return, the employees are dedicated to the company and produce work to their best potential, the performance stays consistent and deadlines are met.

5. Creativity and meaningful work – more collaboration and less hierarchy

Millennials are searching for more than a 9 to 5 - they are looking to be part of the decision making, having an influence on their day and being able to put their creative minds to work. The idea of just “doing the hours” simply isn’t good enough. They are more likely to find meaning from their job.

Giving work meaning and impact satisfies the millennials’ need to feel valued and appreciated. This is one significant example of something corporations must learn from startups, where the small scale of the business makes every employee indisposable. This can be achieved by making sure that the employees understand their role on a larger scale, which helps to develop a sense of purpose creating loyal employees. 

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In Deloitte’s study from 2017, they found that in 2016, 44% of workers indicated that they would leave their employer within two years’ time and only 27% state that they would stay beyond five years. That is why it is important to be able for leaders and companies to offer what Millennials are searching for in a job. 

Millennials are looking for leaders to inspire and challenge, which can be achieved with increasing collaboration with their colleagues and lower hierarchy so that employees feel more comfortable sharing their ideas and improvements.

In addition, the right working space also plays an essential role for millennials. They want a creative space full of flashing colors where they will feel their most productive selves. Apart from that, you could also use LED grow lights to grow plants and make the working space more beautiful and environmentally friendly. Millennials want the ideal space where not only will they feel comfortable but also nurture their creativity. 

 6. Feedback and career progression -  faster and better

 The stereotype of a millennial with the need for constant praise is fitting to a certain degree. Although, Millennials don’t want a constant update on their greatness. They want constructive criticism, feedback they can learn from, and a company that invests in their professional development and education. 

Constructive criticism and guidance are important to keep Millennial workers interested and dedicated to their employer. A rising trend today is that more one-on-one meetings between the manager and the employee are used to keep track and ensure the career progressions Millennials so eagerly need. 

The eagerness to progress in their careers means waiting years and years for a promotion is an almost impossible task for Millennials. This sets pressure on leadership and the traditional hierarchy of companies. How do you manage the ambition and restlessness of a dedicated and productive employee, so that they don’t move on to the next company?  

One way of tackling this would be to develop more steps and titles. Loosen up the hierarchical way of looking at a company structure and find new and innovative ways to increase employees’ responsibilities - giving them a fancier title along the way.

7. Social responsibility

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) greatly affects the decision making of a millennial, from where to work, what to buy and where to shop. With growing uncertainty and knowledge of pressing world issues such as climate change, social instability or student debt, Millennials are highly aware of the massive impact that companies have on making the world a better place. 

Millennials in general share the need that the work they are doing should be important and valuable. One way to ensure that feeling is working for a company that values and practices CSR. Adecco’s 2017 study on graduates reveals that millennials want to work for companies that do good. 55% say that they wouldn’t work for a company with a bad image, even if the financial compensation was high.


Millennials are coming into the workforce, and disrupting old ways of leadership. With the development of technology and communication tools, the way we conduct work has changed. The changing attitudes have also changed the way they operate day to day, with many jobs no longer tying employees down with strict routines. 

Compared to previous generations, millennials’ values have altered dramatically. Meaningful work, flexibility, being creative and getting feedback while not being micromanaged are important for millennials. Companies need to pay attention to them while doing good, creating values that Millennials can get behind.


About the Author

Jurij Radzevic is a Growth hacker with experience in digital marketing and SEO. He graduated from The University of Southern Denmark with a master's degree in marketing, globalization, and communication. Currently working as the Head of Marketing at in Copenhagen. 

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