What is a Millennial, really? You hear this word every now and then, uttered by one pundit after another, relayed by traditional and social media alike. Simply defined, a Millennial is someone born between 1981 and 2000. Millennials are, in essence, the next generation, preceded by Generation X (1965-1980) and the Baby Boomers (1946-1964). Lately, companies and business leaders have spent much time and effort wooing Millennials – an understandable strategy given that this market is as diverse and forward-thinking as social observers have ever seen.
But now that we know these Millennials are next in line to run the world in the years to come, what leadership skills and strategies must they develop to work and perform effectively? If you are a Millennial or have children who are Millennials, heed our top 10 leadership tactics to know and execute in the next few years.
1. Do Your Homework
To be an effective leader, do your homework. Simple as that! There is no shortcut to true leadership, unless you aspire to be a one-time leader, a flop. Go to school, get the education you need, and read as much you can, especially the biographies and leadership styles of those you want to emulate. Besides management skills and charisma, a leader also needs to know a thing or two about literature, culture and society, to name a few. The bottom line is: expand your horizon.
2. Learn the Ropes of True Leadership
Learn the ropes of leadership by paying attention to your elders. They can be in your current company, at your local congregation, in your community… or in your house – we mean your parents. The goal is to learn how true leaders react when faced with challenges, from the simple to the complex. Sharon Weinberg, a Professor of Applied Statistics and Psychology at New York University, suggests that true leadership comes from experience, resilience and patience.
3. Hang Out With the ‘Doers’
You should cultivate the company of doers if you want to be a doer one day. Look around in your community, at work, in your professional network, and identify those who are the rising stars in their respective areas. Earlier, we said you should read about the leaders of the past; now, we are saying you should emulate the leaders of today, learn from them, and apply the best practices they are implementing at work and in their private lives.
4. Cultivate Patience
Author and philosopher Karma Peters says that patience is an important trait in leadership, not only because it appeals to your better angels, but also prevents you from making serious leadership skills that might cost you dearly down the road. Learn to wait for the right moment, at the right place, before making an important operational or business move. To be an effective leader, understand your interlocutors’ priorities and make sure they mesh perfectly with your own aspirations.
5. Embrace Cultural Diversity
Expand your social horizon and learn about other cultures. In today’s economy, globalization is the order of the day. To hone your leadership skills, open yourself up to other foreign lifestyles and learn a thing or two about them. Familiarize yourself with the most popular leadership traits around the world, so that when your shining moment comes, you can adeptly cope with cross-border challenges and lead a global team.
6. Be Operationally Open-Minded
‘Operational open-mindedness’ means you believe there is more than one solution to a business problem – or a social problem, for that matter. The idea here is to recognize that true leadership does not have solutions to all problems, but can adroitly shape the right mix of resources and vision to fix all problems. That is what will be expected of you once you become a leader. So get used to that operational mindset.
7. Mimic the Best Millennials
Emulate the best Millennials we have today. From prominent names like Mark Zuckerberg to less-known doers, such as Luis Alvarado and Sam Barnett, you have a wide array of people and leadership styles to mimic. Forbes Magazine publishes an annual list of “30 under 30,” and this can be a good way to start your research into your own leadership skills and to determine what really matters for you.
8. Act Like a Social Entrepreneur
When it comes to leadership, don’t just pay attention to business executives. Social entrepreneurs also are doing their fair share of social betterment, changing the lives of millions around the world. Even if you have a business mindset, you should read about the passion and philanthropic bent that most social entrepreneurs possess.
9. Empower Your Team
Learn to empower your team – that is a key trait of a true leader. At the end of the day, a winning leader is backed by a winning team of high performers.
So understand the importance of ceding the limelight to your team members, so they also can shine and reach their full potential. Empowerment is, in essence, a byproduct of patience and humility, the kind of mix you usually see in legendary leaders.
10. Create a Millennial Business
To better execute your ‘Millennial leadership strategy,’ why not create a business? That is, a business that caters to Millennials, understands their aspirations, and can smartly accompany them throughout their lives, especially the second phase of adulthood that starts past 40. Founding a business can also be an effective way to fulfill a life dream, whether it is leadership-related, a desire to bring about social welfare, or a lucrative need.
To Sum It Up
Millennials are the next generation of consumers, but also the people poised to lead, nurture others and bring social improvement on Earth. Millennial leaders must possess the same skill set their predecessors had, in addition to multicultural mentality and technological savvy.
Dr. Emad Rahim is an award-winning entrepreneur, educator, author, community leader and TEDx Speaker. He currently serve as the Endowed Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Oklahoma State University and teaches at the Jack Welch Management Institute in the Executive MBA program. He was recognized by the United Nations Foundation as a 2013 Empact100 Honoree for his social entrepreneurship work, received a Congressional Award for his community service and was the recipient of the Forty Under 40 Business Leadership Award sponsored by Syracuse University. His personal story was turned into a short documentary, “Against the Odds,” and featured in the Huffington Post and Forbes. He co-authored “Leading Through Diversity: Transforming Managers Into Effective Leaders” and “The 4-Tions: Your Guide to Developing Successful Job Search Strategies” and is a frequent contributor to the Refractive Thinker book series, CEO Magazine, TweakYourBiz and YFS Entrepreneurship Magazine. Fellow him on Twitter @DrEmadRahim