Across the business world, old assumptions about what makes a good leader and what success looks like in the workplace are being discarded.

Wayne Meisel, Sales Director at SAP Africa

As Millennials and Generation Z – loosely defined as those born between the early 1980s and early 2000s – continue to move up the career ladder, their distinctly different outlook on work and life is changing the age-old notions of success and leadership.

The classic image of the CEO as a gray executive wearing a suit and tie has been replaced by a young, dynamic leader wearing sneakers and jeans with a more casual approach to office attire.

These ‘Suits’ certainly have experience and commercial maturity on their side; however, the so-called “Sneakers” – the younger, less traditional, more goal-oriented and digital natives – are teaching older Suits new ways of working and rewriting classic notions of success in the process. .

Flexible approaches to work

Millennials are considered the first generation to have grown up entirely with the internet as part of their daily lives. These digital natives have never known a world without the convenience of online shopping, the power of smartphones or the connecting threads of social media.

While baby boomers are seen as more traditional, more likely to stay with one company longer – sometimes even spending an entire career with one employer – and more comfortable with a 9-to-5 workweek at office, millennials are disrupting many of these traditions.

Today, young professionals and executives are just as likely to work in cafes as in the office. In fact, Deloitte’s latest Gen Z and Millennial survey found that 75% of Gen Z workers – and 76% of Millennials – prefer a hybrid work environment where they can work remotely at least part of the time.

Where traditional workers stuck to standard office hours, the new generation of young professionals are much more flexible in how they approach their workday. A millennial worker is just as likely to be found at the gym for a midday workout and answering late-night emails as he is sticking to what would be considered “normal” office hours.

Leadership Lessons from a Millennial

So what does this mean for organizations looking to attract, retain and motivate their millennial workforce? From my experience working in the leadership structure of a large tech company, millennials have several vital lessons to teach their older peers, including:

Lesson 1 – There’s more to strategy than bullet points on a PowerPoint slide

Remember that great slide the CEO showed that perfectly summed up the company’s strategy in a few points? Nobody does. Modern leaders know that to inspire and motivate their teams, they must communicate their strategy in a memorable way with a strong emphasis on storytelling.

A strategy that only consists of a few slides in a PowerPoint presentation will not trigger the desired action among your young employees. Focus on crafting a compelling story that inspires your team and gets them on board. And use funny elements to make it more memorable. Young workers expect more than just paid work: they also want to have fun doing it.

Picture: provided

Lesson #2 – Purpose is the superpower of the modern leader

Purpose is a major factor in how Gen Z and Millennial workers make decisions about their personal and professional lives. 90% of respondents to Deloitte’s latest Gen Z and Millennials survey said they have made efforts to reduce their impact on the environment, while nearly two-thirds would choose a more sustainable product, even if t is more expensive than its less environmentally friendly counterparts.

Career choices are also shaped by purpose. Among the top reasons why Gen Z and Millennial workers choose to stay in the workplace, salary (i.e. money) ranks only third, behind factors such as a good work/life balance and the opportunity to learn new skills.

Smart modern leaders know how to focus on a goal to inspire their young workforce. They know that talking about buying a new tool isn’t exciting or motivating: instead, they’re talking about the potential of how that tool can change the world. Companies with a clear objective also find it easier to attract talented candidates who match that objective. In fact, nearly two in five Gen Z and Millennial workers said in a survey that they rejected a job or assignment because it didn’t align with their values.

Lesson #3 – A diversity of viewpoints leads to stronger ideas

Science confirms the importance of building diverse teams. Socially diverse groups—those with a diversity of race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation—have been shown to be more innovative, better able to solve complex problems, and anticipate alternative points of view than more homogeneous.

Why the Traditional Leadership Development Model Doesn't Work

Young workers understand the value of listening to, considering and integrating a diversity of perspectives from a wide range of different personality types and backgrounds.

That’s why nearly two in five Gen Z and Millennial workers said they would stay with a company for five years or more if they were satisfied with their employer’s efforts to create a diverse workplace. and inclusive. Successful modern leaders will create programs and help create a corporate culture that celebrates diversity.

Lesson #4 – Effective Leaders Focus on Being Communicable

Is someone under 50 really inspired by an obscure Winston Churchill quote uttered by someone that looks like it was copied and pasted from the pages of Gray Suit Monthly?

Young workers shape the companies of tomorrow by exploring new ideas and trying new solutions to old and emerging challenges. To inspire this new generation of professionals who are shaping the business world, leaders must use relevant language and examples.

Having input from a Gen Z or millennial at a board meeting or during executive brainstorming sessions can help bridge the gap between older Suits and younger Sneakers who will lead a day the organization.

By ensuring that leadership decisions are communicated in a relevant way, organizations can continue to inspire their young employees to contribute to business success.

There is no doubt that this young generation of determined and passionate leaders brings value to the workplace. Do they have all the answers? Absolutely not. Some of the most effective business strategies are still driven by Suits who possess the gift of experience. High-performing organizations know how to create diverse teams that create learning and growth opportunities for suits and sneakers.


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