Gen Why - Michelle Eggleston

The workplace is shifting from a top-down management model to a culture of leaders who can influence and impact change across the business. This gradual change has occurred as new generations have entered the workforce with a unique perspective on how to inspire others to take action.

With this cultural shift, the skills that leaders will need to possess in the future are also changing. It is predicted that tomorrow’s leaders will have skills and aptitudes that starkly contrast with those of current senior leaders. This change is attributed to the differing views between CEOs and millennial leaders on what makes an effective leader.

In the next decade, millennials envision a C-suite filled with executives who excel at the interpersonal and interaction facets of leadership, according to the research study “Divergent Views/Common Ground” conducted by The Conference Board. Their ideal leader will be one who is an inspiring coach, a captivating communicator and who has a high global acumen.

This picture contrasts with the CEOs’ ideal future leader, who focuses less on interpersonal influence and more on critical thinking skills, business savvy and stakeholder management. How will these differing opinions impact organizations?

Coming to a Crossroads

It could be argued that millennial leaders have their blinders on when it comes to their view of stakeholder management. The reality of this blind spot may simply lie in the fact that millennial leaders are still green to the responsibilities of senior leaders. As leaders move up the corporate ladder, the level of interaction with stakeholders and other key business players increases. Maintaining relationships at the senior level requires a combination of interpersonal skills and business acumen. Simply relying on interpersonal skills to steer the future of the company may prove lackluster and ineffective for business development.

The research cautions that if millennial leaders fail to expand their view of stakeholders beyond their organization’s customers to include other key parties, they could potentially find themselves at a crossroads with current senior leaders.

Think about it. If both parties polish skills and promote talent based on their unique preferences of the future leader, they will further divide these two groups, ultimately putting pressure on advancing leaders caught in this tug-of-war.

When it comes to senior leadership development, an organization must have a clearly defined list of attributes that exemplify an effective leader. Each organization’s leadership profile may differ, just as each organization’s mission and goals will vary.

The Role of L&D

Learning and development can play an active role in creating a cohesive leadership development program that promotes company values and builds future leaders based on those standards.

Increasing transparency and awareness of key stakeholders

Junior leaders are often unaware of company stakeholders who play a significant role in a senior leaders’ success. Increasing transparency can help millennials recognize the importance of stakeholders and the key role they play in the business.

Creating a success profile for senior leadership roles

Ensure promotion and development programs are aligned with the skills and attributes a leader will need to possess as deemed by the organization. This requires building a success profile for senior leadership roles, which can be achieved through data collection from performance reviews, assessment of company values and interviews with the appropriate people.

Providing coaching and job shadowing programs

Teaming up senior and junior leaders can allow millennials to learn the intricacies of senior leadership roles first-hand. Through these observations, millennials can better understand the skills that will be required when they transition into more senior-level roles.

Moving Forward

As our workplace continues to shift toward a more inclusive culture that embraces peer-to-peer mentoring and coaching, the attributes of the future leader will become more clearly defined. Through L&D’s guidance, organizations can create a more unified vision for tomorrow’s leaders.

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