The top 3 traits of successful Millennial managers and leaders

24 May 2018

10-minute read.

Companies are struggling to retain and motivate Millennials -  a topic of passionate boardroom discussions today. Business owners and executives are constantly searching for solutions and advice on how to grow and retain their Millennial workforce. From our combined experience in consulting for companies across various industries, we have identified the top 3 traits of young professionals who have excelled into leadership positions earlier than most of their peers.  

They consistently show respect towards their employers and team.  

The most successful young managers all demonstrate respect and humility towards their employers and team in their early careers, and continue to do so in leading and managing teams later on. They make a deliberate attempt to break the ‘20-something know-it-all’ stereotype. They also have a certain sense of maturity about them – realizing that there is no such thing as the perfect job or employer.  

Those who have been promoted into leadership roles at an early age realize that no matter how talented they are, they simply don’t know everything. Acknowledging and respecting the systems, processes and people who worked hard to get the business to where it is today is essential. Taking time to familiarize oneself with the stories and journey of the business, and listening to the motivations and stories behind how things came to be are also important. These attitudes enable Millennial managers to suggest or recommend new ways of doing things from a place of mutual respect.  They trust the leadership of their superiors, and when an idea or initiative does not get implemented straight away they go back to the drawing board with the perspective that I am learning through mentorship and guidance.  

They implement big plans and ideas with patience and accountability 

Millennial managers typically have plenty of big plans, new ideas or initiatives to keep the organization competitive and moving forward. Their ability to demonstrate bigger picture thinking and to support a clear vision of where the organization needs to be is a trait which employers most value in their younger managers.  Communicate the vision by all means, and address the challenges by painting the big picture of the ideal outcome.

However, the roadmap of how to get there is a timeline filled with objectives, check points, milestones, optimization and moments of reflection and recognition. Successful Millennial managers start small, and deliver value incrementally by constantly communicating upward what they are learning and how the change management effort is delivering value. Patience is a virtue and is reflected in the Millennial manager’s ability to educate and inform their employer every day about what is working - and what is not. Taking accountability in addressing the strategies that are not performing on target, and building a culture of mutual learning and continuous optimization among generations are all behaviours we have observed in great young leaders.  

They realize that it’s not about me. It’s about the company and team. 

Finally, putting the organization ahead of personal gain is a priority for successful young leaders. So often, Millennials enter the workforce with the unrealistic expectation of wanting to ‘create an impact’ within the first month of employment, or aim to have their salary doubled in less than 6 months. Often cited in popular culture and streams of managerial research, Millennials grew up in a world that revolves around them. Many Millennials often demonstrate attitudes of being self-centered or entitled, because they got what they wanted when they asked for it. Young people are entering the work force with a lack of self-esteem and perspective on the time and effort real achievement requires.

The reality is that successful change efforts and careers are not driven by the next income bracket or a desire to ‘leave your legacy’ on the company. The most successful young people we have observed in companies are other-serving, not self-serving. They adopt a ‘stakeholder’ mind-set knowing that their team, employer, clients and suppliers should all be treated as personal references.  

In the end, these attitudes and traits are naturally recognized by the aspiring Millennials manager's peers and seniors who naturally elect and advocate the promotion of the employee into a manager and leader.