Preparing Millennials to Lead

Is your organization prepared for millennial leadership?
By: | December 20, 2017 • 5 min read

When you hear the word millennial, what comes to mind? A group of lazy, entitled underachievers or a population reaping the consequences of generations past? Opinions aside, the fact remains that by 2025, millennials will comprise 75 percent of the workforce. This means that businesses will undergo rapid changes for which they need to prepare.

First, employers need to understand what’s important to millennials.


Recently, American Express released a report that examined the values and expectations of 1,363 millennial leaders and 1,062 Generation X leaders. Results from the research, titled Redefining the C-Suite: Business the Millennial Way, weren’t necessarily surprising, experts say, but they can be helpful as a guide for determining how to attract, retain and grow millennial leadership.

“Millennials have high expectations for the businesses they work for — and will eventually lead,” says Susan Sobbott, president of American Express Global Commercial Payments in New York. “The successful U.S. business of the future will need to have an authentic purpose and foster employee well-being with passionate committed leadership at its helm. Millennials are seeking work beyond just making money, and they’re willing to make trade-offs to achieve their own definition of success.”

One statistic from this report that jumps out is more than one-third of millennial leaders believe the current CEO role will be irrelevant within the next 10 years. What does that mean? Why are these youngsters trying to destroy business as we currently know it?

There’s no need to panic, experts say. Millennials understand businesses still need to earn money, make shareholders happy and have strong leaders at the helm. But their leaders will take different approaches than their autocratic predecessors.

“We’re going to see a big change in leadership styles as more millennials begin to run companies,” says Dan Schawbel, a millennial and partner and research director at Future Workplace, a New York-based HR research firm dedicated to helping companies prepare for the future workplace.

“Instead of the autocratic style, millennial CEOs will adopt the transformational approach. They will have a vision for the company and share it with everyone. These leaders will encourage everyone around them to want to follow that vision.”

Rajiv Kumar, millennial and chief medical officer and president of Virgin Pulse Institute, part of Virgin Pulse, a company committed to improving people’s health and well-being through mobile technology, expands on what the CEO role might look like in the future.

“The CEO role will still exist, but it will be a more integrated, participatory role,” Kumar says. “Instead of the siloed CEOs we see now, millennial CEOs will be accessible to all employees, not just the executives and board of directors. We’ll start to see increased levels of transparency, which will help employees understand the decisions being made and why.”