There’s a lot of talk about what millennials want from employers and from their careers. However, many people are surprised to learn what millennials don’t want: leadership roles. According to one study, only about 20 percent of millennials actually aspire to hold leadership positions, and most would rather focus on developing their interpersonal, IT, and technological skills than their managerial and leadership skills.
This lack of focus on leadership has had the effect of pushing leadership training down the priority list for most employers as well. In one study conducted by Harvard Business School in conjunction with consulting firm Brandon Hall, 4-in-5 companies don’t place enough emphasis on leadership training, and among those that do, most are not tailoring that training to millennials, furthering limiting their development. Given the overall shifts in the workforce — with boomers moving out and millennials moving in — the need for new leadership is more important than ever.
Why Millennials Don’t Want to Lead
One common complaint about millennials is that they don’t always want to work their way up the ladder, but expect to be “in charge” early on — even if they don’t necessarily have the skills that are required to lead.
While this may be true in some cases, the reluctance of millennials to take on leadership positions, is a bit more complex than that. Researchers have identified several key points that drive this trend.
- Millennials tend to be collaborative. In general, millennials tend to be more collaborative than other cohorts, and less likely to blindly follow orders or the dictates of a single leader. Rather, they tend to find strength in numbers and in working together, and tend to view their role as part of the bigger picture.
- Millennials want to make a difference. As part of that “big picture” view, millennials tend to want to make a large impact on the world — and they don’t always believe that leadership is the way to do that.
- Millennials aren’t comfortable leading older generations. In today’s workplace, millennials who are asked to take on leadership positions often have to lead older co-workers — and they aren’t always comfortable with that. They don’t always feel like they have the experience or authority to be an effective leader.
- Millennials don’t feel prepared to lead. In a survey by Deloitte, more than 60 percent of millennials noted that they do not feel prepared to lead, despite the career growth potential associated with a leadership role. Part of the problem is that many companies wait until employees have moved into a management role before they begin leadership development training, rather than supporting leadership development from day one. The result is millennial employees who would rather turn down a promotion than risk failure.
Developing the Next Generation of Leaders
Despite a shifting focus toward creating more collaborative cultures in organizations, the fact is that millennials need to be trained in leadership and prepared for the roles that they will eventually need to take on. And arguably, the better that younger workers are prepared for leadership, the more likely they will be to take on these roles in the first place.
Employers, then, need to become more diligent in their efforts to train millennials in leadership. This could include providing support in earning an advanced degree from one of the best online MBA programs, as leadership and managerial skills are often a key aspect of MBA studies. Other measures include:
- Developing a mentorship and support program to help millennials build their leadership skills and confidence.
- Offer real-world training and development opportunities. millennials, more than any other generation, are enthusiastic about hands-on opportunities that allow them to learn through experience and put their knowledge into work. Develop programs that provide on-the-job-leadership training.
- Provide assistance in developing career paths, and offer performance feedback and management. When employees know have goals, understand expectations, and have help in identifying opportunities for learning and improvement, they are more likely to build their skills.
Because leadership isn’t a priority for most millennials, many organizations simply focus on other areas. In time, though, this will create a leadership deficit, so the time is now to move leadership to the top of the priority list and begin molding the next generation of leaders.