Millennials, leadership is influence

Millennials in the workplaceSo we’ve started talking about Gen Y (Millennials) leading in the workplace and what that really means. I guess we have to start with the definition of leadership in order to find out how to do it, right?

Leadership = Influence.

I’d love to take credit for that, but really that comes from a guy way smarter than me and even though he’s a boomer, he’s spent his life understanding and studying leadership. I can relate to what he’s selling because unlike many from his generation, he recognizes that we can all learn from each other.

All of our lives, we’ve been directed. We’re told what sports to play, what church to attend, what friends to hang out with, and even what college to go to. Now, we’ve hit the real world and there isn’t someone telling us what steps to take to lead…we have to figure that out on our own.

To me, that’s the fun part. I know that I don’t know everything and want to learn as much as I possibly can so what do I do?

I find mentors. I read constantly. I maintain a social network of experts in various fields I can access to help me. I read constantly. I ask older people what they think. I ask younger people what they think. I think. I read constantly…you get the picture.

The good news is that we are in a generation that is more open to sharing information than ever before and we have the tools to do that faster than ever before. The trick, however,  is sharing the right information and cultivating the right kinds of relationships necessary to be an effective leader.

Whether online or in person, knowing who to go to is very important to getting the job done. That’s a lesson in influence. You can’t get things done unless you know and partner with the key people in any organization.

Sometimes that means…wait for it…EVEN BOOMERS!!! aaaaah!

What can we do to partner with boomers (and Xers)?

Maybe, we focus on our similarities…and call attention to them. Generally speaking, they’re focusing on how – um – different we are. We have to show them that we have many of the same desires and goals that they do (or did).

Baby Boomers


People like those who like them. Rather than being adversarial, how can we get them on board?

When you get that figured out, let’s talk…I’d like to know too. For now, I’ll share a few things that I’ve learned in my brief career.

  1. Politics isn’t dirty. The word itself means “how a group makes a decision.” That said, generally, you need to play the politics if you wan to make a difference in anything. Play to their strengths. Compensate for their weaknesses. Promote your successes and quickly remedy your failures.
  2. The faster you become part of the team, the faster you can be the QB. Too many times we think that we should be running the show and making key decisions immediately but we fail to really make the team first. Show the organization you’re willing to go the extra mile and do the dirty work for awhile before you start demanding promotions/respect. Remember that the person who says they deserve respect usually doesn’t.
  3. Understand how few people know how to connect the dots. I’m not talking about the kids game, I’m talking about knowing how each role, department, function, etc., fits together and makes the whole machine work better. It’s hard to see sometimes from the bottom, I know, but if you can demonstrate that you can connect the dots quickly, your career will soar.
  4. Get exposure in KEY areas. We’ve been told our whole lives by our boomer parents that we can do anything. So, when we don’t like something, we quit that and move to the next thing. I think that’s a great quality but Gen X and Boomers do not. We have to realize that sometimes the exposure to things we don’t like can be a valuable asset to our connecting the dots.
  5. Follow good advice. I know, you’re thinking “I would if I could get any.” There are nuggets of gold in piles of dirt so you may have to move a lot of dirt to find one. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever been given was from a VP of another company I worked for when he said, “Always consider 2 things when selecting a job: what experience it will give you and who you’ll be working for.” Your boss matters a lot. Get them on your side and be on theirs. If you can’t do that, move.

What advice have you been given? What things have you observed in your career thus far? Leave a comment and let me know.

1 thought on “Millennials, leadership is influence

  1. Pingback: Gen Y believes they ARE working hard and proving themselves… | The Thinking Leader

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