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Don’t make this classic leadership mistake when you lead Millennials

Ryan Jenkins


Leaders are struggling to come to grips with the new generation of workers that’s occupying the 2013/2014 workplace. The mistake they’re making is believing that the Millenial’s highest priority is their pay packet. Those that continue to make this leadership mistake will get a nasty surprise.Why you ask? You’ll just have to keep reading…

The chart below is from a study done by Boston College’s Centre for Work & Family: Creating Tomorrow’s Leaders: The Expanding Roles of Millennials in the Workplace by Lauren Stiller Rikleen. It shows how Millennials describe career success.

The four topics on the left (Y axis) depict the top four Millennial responses (shown in grey) when they were asked how they define career success. The red responses are those given by Millenials’ managers when they were asked how they think Millennials define career success.
The research reflects a significant difference between how Millennials define career success versus their non-Millennial managers:

  • Forty-eight per cent of managers believe that the individuals are primarily focused on money and this determines their career success, whereas
  • The majority of Millennials (30%) identified meaningful work as the most important factor which defines career success for them.

Left unaddressed, these differences between what managers think Millenials want and what they actually do want, will drive your young talent right out of your organisation.
Leaders lead how they want to be led rather, not how their followers want to be led

Baby Boomers (who comprise most of the red responses in the chart above) find their identity in their work and use their pay as an indicator of success. This is why they mistakenly place that same success indicator assumption on the Millennials they lead. This is a recipe for disaster.
Knowing and understanding what makes Millennials different in the workplace is the secret to determining strategies and actions that can transform them into high-performing employees and the future leaders your organisation needs.


Ryan Jenkins is a Millennial speaker, blogger and podcaster who equips his online and offline audiences to leverage next generation tools, trends and talent to thrive in tomorrow’s multi-generational marketplace. He has been speaking publicly for over 6 years to audiences ranging from 5 to 500 participants. Being a Millennial himself wasn't enough to fully grasp the magnitude of change the Millennials will cause as they flood the marketplace, so Ryan interviewed hundreds of Millennials to better understand their behavior, strengths, employer expectations and career desires.

He has written the ebook, The GenEdge: Leveraging Millennials with A Next Generation Mindset, that empowers leaders to think differently about the emerging generation in order to capitalise on their size and unique skills.

In addition, Ryan is a founding partner of the John Maxwell Team.