Forget titles. Millennials already consider themselves to be a leader in the workplace. While they may not have risen through the ranks to the C-suite – yet – the millennial generation is redefining what it means to be a leader in today’s workplace.

According to the 2013 Millennial Leadership Survey conducted by The Hartford, 78 percent of millennials consider themselves to be a leader today. While this omission may further brand this generation as entitled and self-serving, millennials actually define leadership a little bit differently.

Leadership can be a vague term with various meanings and interpretations. A popular definition of a leader is someone who motivates or influences others to reach a shared goal. This form of leadership can sometimes be thought of as exclusive to managers and supervisors who engage employees in their day-to-day tasks.

The millennial generation has a different interpretation of leadership. Millennials define a leader more broadly, as someone who mentors others. Essentially, this form of leadership is inclusive of all employees and can be attained at all levels of the organization. With this shift in perspective, a new paradigm is emerging where managers and supervisors are no longer the only ones giving feedback and direction. All employees can be mentors and assist in the development of others.

But millennials not only want to mentor others, they also want to be coached themselves. According to the same Hartford study, 90 percent of millennials believe baby boomers bring substantial experience and knowledge to the workplace. Organizations can leverage this insight by creating opportunities where millennials and boomers can mentor each other, which can be beneficial for both sides of the generation pool.

Empowering Millennials

The millennial generation is focused on people and professional development. They want to learn and feel empowered to lead and help others. Kyle Borchardt of Virtuali and PJ Neal of Harvard Business Publishing offer the following suggestions on how organizations can empower millennials to succeed:

  • Instill leadership capabilities and a leadership mindset in millennials early in their careers, so they are ready to transition into more senior roles sooner.
  • Deliver small, continuous learning experiences over a longer timespan to ensure the learning sticks.
  • Have employees practice new skills on the job in combination with formal training program.
  • Encourage employees to reflect on learning experiences to increase knowledge retention and improve behavior change.
  • Provide career coaching and mentorship opportunities customized to individuals.

With millennials pushing for more development opportunities and focused on helping others, the business world is starting to see a shift in workplace dynamics. Organizations need to respond by creating learning experiences that encourage all employees to take an active role in mentoring and coaching others. Developing a culture where employees are empowered to help others can raise the bar on employee engagement and productivity.

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