5 Ways to Teach Your Millennials to Lead

Approximately half the members of the millennial generation are either entering the workforce or beginning entry-level management positions. However, their unrealistic expectations and lack of savvy could sabotage their career aspirations.

Instead of allowing them to falter, organizations can prepare their millennial employees to assume future leadership roles.

The first question leaders may be asking is: “Are millennials even fit to lead?” Their integration into the workforce is often marked by frustration and intergenerational conflict. They’re often perceived as impatient and lacking in many of the social graces. Many co-workers complain that millennials arrive late, leave early, expect too much and their loyalty is suspect.

But on the positive side, they have a reputation for strong technical skills as well as for being fast-paced multi-taskers who are highly team-oriented. If they suffer from too much confidence, it’s probably because they’ve been taught to have high expectations. Many of the innate qualities millennials bring to the table could make them excellent leaders in the future, given the right preparation now.

Utilize feedback and assessments. Millennials are used to receiving feedback and many actively seek it. The path to preparing them for future leadership roles is to begin providing ample feedback as early as possible — but it’s important to balance the negatives with the positives. Assessment tools tend to be the most constructive way to provide on-target feedback. It also provides a baseline for tracking each millennial’s progress, which will keep them engaged.

Show them the big picture. Millennials don’t always see how they fit into the greater scheme of things — that’s why it helps for leaders to provide them with the big picture. It’s also wise to involve them directly in developing their own career plan. That way, they will always be able to see how their efforts contribute to the organization as a whole.

Give them stretch assignments. Where possible, leaders should consider giving millennials developmental stretch assignments. Since they’re used to participating in team projects and independent study, these tasks will be motivational.

Enable them to be forward-thinking. Preparing millennial employees for future leadership positions means you have to help them become forward-thinking as early as possible. Begin by including them early in talent reviews. By giving them insights into business initiatives that will be critical to the organization’s success in the future, they’ll gain a keen understanding of their own developmental needs and experience gaps.

Give them exposure to senior leaders. Millennials can also benefit from opportunities to be front and center with top management — the exposure can help them gain further insights into the skills needed for leadership positions. In the same vein, pairing them with the right mentors is key to helping them grow.

Millennials have the potential to become outstanding leaders in the near future — they function well in teams, embrace diversity and manage technology with ease. They are also goal-driven and adept at learning. They may require more “hand-holding” in the early stages than previous generations, but with the right guidance to succeed and the freedom to grow, they could rocket up the organizational chart.

Jan Ferri-Reed is a consultant and president of KEYGroup, an international speaking, training and assessment firm, and co-author of Keeping the Millennials: Why Companies are Losing Billions in Turnover to This Generation and What To Do About It. She can be reached at editor@diversity-executive.com.