Key Leadership Strengths for Millennials

Key Leadership Strengths for Millennials

We all know the stereotypes as they’re the most talked about generation there is, but what makes Millennials tick and what are they looking for in leaders.

Millennials are the digital generation, tethered to their phones and obsessed with social media. They are often characterized as being lazy and narcissistic as well as having no notion of company loyalty as they switch from job to job.

Also known as the Boomerang Generation, Millennials are inclined to move back home when financially stretched and delay adult rites of passage, such as starting a career or marriage for as long as possible.

This generation is regarded as materialistic, even silly, more civically and politically disengaged than past generations. The list goes on and on.

But let’s not dwell on the negative, Millennials are also open-minded, self-assured, family-oriented, hold liberal views and support minorities. They are always open to new ideas and ways of living, and enjoy a healthy work-life balance.

There are currently 78 million Millennials (young professionals born between 1980 and 2000) living in America at this moment in time and there appears to be just as many surveys dissecting them (Millennials, Generation Y and other less flattering names) with regard to their mindset, likes, dislikes and habits.

With such a range of views on offer, surely the truth is to be found somewhere in the middle?

Leadership survey

Millennials had big plans to leave their employer for greener pastures last year, according to Deloitte’s annual Millennial Survey of 8,000 Millennials located in 30 countries. However, months of uncertainty, including the shock results of the US presidential election and the terror attacks in Europe, has left them discouraged and dampened their enthusiasm for a new job. The data suggests that young professionals are now less likely to look for a new position and more pessimistic about their future prospects, owing to the social and political upheaval that is prevalent across the developed world .

Interestingly, Deloitte’s survey also reveals that while Millennials expressed a preference for staying in their current positions, the majority (60%) do not feel adequately prepared to take up leadership roles despite the potential for career growth that would come with these responsibilities. Millennials are afraid of failure and would rather turn down a promotion than take that risk.

This is surprising as it is well documented that Millennials are primarily focused on their own personal goals, rather than long-term loyalty to a company. However, this shouldn’t be confused with disloyalty as Millennials do feel a certain degree of loyalty, only not towards a company, but to the individuals they work with.

Simply put, they want to want to listen and learn from others and are looking for good leaders to follow and when they find them, they will almost certainly follow them with commitment and enthusiasm.   

So what key strengths do Millennials look for in leaders?


According to the the findings of a study for the book The Millennials: Connecting to America’s largest Generation by Thom S Rainer, Millennials have a great deal of respect for their elders and most of them have strong relationships with their parents, hence the phrase, the Peter Pan / Boomerang Generation. Throughout their lives, they have learned a great deal from the older people in their lives and don’t want this to end. They want to be led and taught in their families as well as in their places of work.

Authenticity is key

All four generations that are alive today: Seniors, Baby Boomers, Generation Xers, but especially Millennials want to achieve the “authentic self”. In other words be their true self. For each generation this can mean something different and the concept of true self is evolving all the time. To achieve the authentic self, Millennials want authentic leaders, and the more authentic leaders are, the more Millennial employees will follow.

Millennials are the digital generation, devout followers of social media, particularly Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. One of the main reasons behind social media’s success is its authenticity as it allows users to interact in real time, but also creates an open space for conversation and feedback . Millennials seek this same authenticity in their lives.

Leaders with integrity

Young professionals are tired of broken promises and frustrated by politicians who don’t do what they say. They have also had enough of business leaders who are more focused on personal gain than serving others. Put simply, they want leaders with integrity.

If you tell Millennials that you will do something, they expect you to do it, as opposed to earlier generations who understood that saying something and doing something are not always the same. Transparency between what you say and what you do has never been more important.

What Millennials do not want

Young professionals don’t want hostile, mean-spirited or loud leaders who are prone to disagreement. They want transformational leaders who challenge and inspire others with purpose and excitement. They also want democratic leaders who share decision-making with their followers. Rigid autocratic leadership styles of earlier generations, particularly the Baby Boomers, are less attractive than ever as they impose strict and rigid control over policies and procedures.

Millennials want work environments that are collaborative and where ideas can be exchanged with peers, and corporate missions that are achievable, rather than work for a company with a corporate culture where it’s position on policies and procedures is inflexible.

Although, Millennials are critisized by many, the study ends on a positive note with the author stating, “I found great hope in the Millennials. I see great promise in many of them. And I found among them a hunger to learn from leaders they respect.”


Mike Smith

Mike Smith has a wide range of experience in the Financial Services industry, having worked for an array of European commercial and investment banks. Mike thrives on working with other business professional and entrepreneurs to help them navigate the murky waters of business management, particularly insolvency. Mike can be reached via

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