How things have changed!  What use to be derogatory — “having your head in the clouds” — has become the best connected way of life. It amazes me how cloud computing has integrated all my apparatuses and made my computing a little more seamless. As long as my wireless is working I have instant access to just about everything.

How has this impacted leadership? The style has shifted from the necessity of leaders as the storehouse of information, to the employees having access to that information from other sources than the leader. Those that have not made the shift have become extinct (even the ones still on the job).

The storehouse of knowledge, innovation, and decision-making has filtered down the line. We see this in the military (they usually get it right first). Young adults (18 and up), are given digital devices, and along with those devices, much more responsibility for input that goes into making strategic decisions.

In our own research, my colleagues and I discovered that one of the nine orientations of Millennials is that they are highly imaginative. The intrinsic value that drives that behavior is self-expression. They have both a desire and a need to make their mark on the world. And they are!! Technology has boosted this orientation. They embrace change and thrive on brainstorming. They love to create and they love to problem solve. They have the tools—mentally and technologically—to do it.

Even a lack of experience can be advantageous to creativity. Experience is helpful when it allows us to use shortcuts in getting a job done. But it can bind our imaginations into certain patterns of thinking that squelch creativity. Roger von Oech, author of Whack On The Side of the Head: How You Can Be More Creative put it this way: “The hard part is letting go of what worked for you two years ago, but will soon be out of date.”

Alert!!! Today’s workers are capable of having as much information as their managers, and in many cases, have specialized skills that are more advanced than their bosses. Rather than being threatened by that, the smart boss leverages those skills. Rosabeth Moss Kanter said, “After years of telling corporate citizens to ‘trust the system’, many companies must relearn instead to trust their people—and encourage their people to use neglected creative capacities in order to tap the most potent economic stimulus of all: idea power.” The good news is you don’t have to convince young employees to use their drive for self-expression and creativity.

Today’s young employees have some allergies that need to be recognized.

  • They are allergic to environments that require them to seek permission before making a contribution.
  • They are hardwired that way.
  • Self-expression is a part of their software. It was put in at an early age and is constantly being updated.
  • The cloud is just one more download. YouTube, Twitter,  Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, etc. has not only allowed, but also encouraged them to express themselves.

So why would anyone expect an abrupt about face in an organization. The surefire way to get them to search for optional employment is to put them in a passive position waiting for instructions from above.

So what is a company to do?  Look at what good companies ARE doing.

1. Acknowledge the shift in the style of leadership. Looking at the landscape and embracing the shift(s) will serve an organization well.

2. Have a vision that is clear and compelling. If it’s not meaningful it will not be compelling. Rather than barking out orders, create meaningful work. The young employee gravitates to this. Come to think of it, so does the older employee. It’s just that younger ones will leave quicker.

3. Make sure the organization’s values are aligned with behavior. Rather than making every decision for your young employees, values help drive their decision-making. The world is moving at an accelerated speed. It’s impossible to have a rule for every nuance. A better strategy is for the leaders to model the core values. The value-driven organization equips their people to make on the run decisions when a rule might not be readily available. Good judgment will be served by those values. Like the military, values enable decision-making to be pushed down the line.

4. Take an interest in your people. Even though young employees are LinkedIn, they can feel Left-Out. It’s in the relationship that your experience and core values will be contagiously caught

Innovation is the implementation of ideas. It’s in everyone’s DNA. How is it encouraged in your organization?

Share your ideas with us.

(Mick Ukleja is the co-author of the book Managing the Millennials: Discover the Core Competencies for Managing Today’s Workforce)

*We have partnered with Red Tree Leadership to deliver training in Managing The Millennials.


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2 Responses
  1. Marvia Evangelis-Roach

    We are really in different times. I have always said that age is just a number. When folks look at me and say ‘you are a young manager! How did you get that job?’ I reply, age is just a number and it has nothing to do with performance. This article helps in support of my point.

    Increasingly, we see organizations looking towards a younger demographic to propell them into success, to secure their future.

    I was never one to put an age limit on my achievements in life. If I did, It was merely to say that I will not wait til am 40 to achieve that which can be achieved at age 20 or 30. I am not averse to risks, I am fully aware of my strengths. Energy and dynamism, are my wings.

    It has worked for me thus far. What’s your view on the topic?

  2. Mick Ukleja

    Experience is a good thing, but only if processed through reflection. It’s one thing to be a manager for 10 years, but in reality some folks are managers 1 year…10 times! As we reflect on our experiences they become insights, and growth occurs. The younger generation needs to avoid hubris, but the lack of experience is someone else’s excuse for holding them back. Success leaves clues. Watch, not experience, but success, and proceed from there. Fly on!!

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