Teach Millennials How To Be Great Leaders

When we think of great leaders we think of people who have leadership qualities like goal setting, inspiration, dedication, honesty, trustworthiness and so many other positive qualities. Millennials on the other hand are often described as lazy, entitled, selfish and many more negativedescriptions. However, when the right Millennial is hired for the right job these descriptions are not valid… especially when they are mentored by a great leader.

If you are a great leader it’s likely you learned it along the way from a combination of opportunities like:Leaders Values Millennials

  • Trial & error.
  • You had great mentors.
  • You studied / read leadership books.
  • You paid attention to good and bad examples of leadership.

Very few people are natural-born leaders. Lets not cast aside Millennials as hopeless. Instead, lets intentionally teach / mentor Millennials how to be great leaders.

When you have the right person in the right job, Millennials (like most people) are self-motivated and full of potential. So it’s up to their parents, professors, HR professionals and managers to make sure they are demonstrating the best leadership qualities for today’s ever-changing business market.

The challenge for them is to not learn poor leadership styles some of us have had to un-learn from that one really bad boss we once had. You know, the boss who had the Top-down / Carrot-Stick leadership style poplar post WWII when jobs were linear, repetitive and boring. The reality is that today most jobs are far from linear, repetitive and boring.

What are some of the lessons we have to make sure we are both
using – and teach Millennials how to be leaders?

Here is a list of 6 important lessons that will help teach Millennials how to be leaders.

1) Help Them Recognize Their Values And Their Importance

Most Millennials have wonderful values like compassion, charity/philanthropy, creativity, collaboration and achievement… and are not usually strong on values like conformity and tradition. Learning to recognize their strengths and values… and the strengths and values of others (and the organization), is critical to them being a great leader. Help your Millennials by teaching them the importance of values when making decisions and communicating.

When the time comes for your organization to review your mission, vision and values, let all of your employees contribute to your mission, vision and value statements. Demonstrate that great leaders make sure everyone have a respectful opportunity to contribute.

2) Be Their Mentor – Not Just Their Boss

The best leaders are effective because they know what they are best at and they lead with those skills. To create effective millennial leaders we must help them first understand their own gifts and talents. Help them identify what these skills are so they can use them to make informed decisions. Help them also see their gaps not as failures – but as opportunities to rely on (and develop), other people.

3) Be Authentic And Transparent

Authenticity and fairness come naturally to most Millennials. They grew up being encouraged to explore their individuality and to accept others for who they are no matter of their differences. As their leader, demonstrate that being authentic and transparent is important in their professional life.

Show Millennials that what they say and what they do matters and will be respected – especially in difficult times or during difficult conversations.

4) Be Trustworthy

Autonomy ranks very high on a Millennials list. Sure they love working in teams and are some of the best / least territorial collaborators… and yet, like most of us, Millennials love some independence. Trusting individuals to control their schedule is important. They will also enjoy when their collaboration team enjoys some project autonomy.

By trusting  Millennials (and other generations), you deepen commitment by demonstrating your respect for them and their opinions / talents.

5) Be Confident… And Flexible

Being confident about goals and objectives is terrific – but being flexible is also advantageous. Great leaders know that other people’s ideas and experiences often bring an approach and creativity that wasn’t previously considered and may make the project even better. This also supports your plan to offer employees more autonomy.

6) Teach Millennials How To Listen

Millennials love to learn – so remind them they can’t learn while they’re talking… only when they’re listening. Great leaders understand how powerful listening is in building relationships and respect.

Teach your Millennials not just to listen, but to demonstrate they are listening and care about what they hear. Like any good news reporter, encourage them to ask powerful questions… and to listen to the response.


Millennials have the ability to become great leaders. We just need to teach them to recognize and lead from their innate strengths, communicate effectively, listen well and be transparent in what they do. Start today and lets awaken the leaders of tomorrow!

Happy communicating, mentoring, motivating… and training.

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What Great Leaders Know And Do

Being a great leader requires many skills – most of which are soft skills not taught at school. So, what leadership skills do we need to know and how do we develop leadership skills?

There are four ways we develop leadership skills:

  • Nature – our personality, our natural preference.
  • Nurture – our upbringing and the values, experiences we learned growing up
  • Experiences – what we’ve learned from people who’ve been our leaders, mentors and role models
  • Training – active, formal training and coaching

I’ve had many great professional leaders, mentors and role models. I’ve also had my share of terrible. For example – one of my last bosses was never open to sharing clearly defined goals and working with the team to define and agree on clearly defined tactics. It was so bad that if ‘the team’ thought we did grasp a project vision, we were not surprised when (not if), he came into work with whole new approach… and had rewritten the previously crafted materials and strategy to fit with his new vision.What Great Leaders Know And Do

Leadership side-note… there are many articles written about how people don’t leave companies – they leave leaders. I know the last 2 leaders I had were key to me leaving the last 2 companies where I worked. I guess I should thank them.

Historically a persons analytical skills and education has been the key deciding factor when selecting / promoting leaders.  This gives very little (if any), consideration to their soft skills or emotional intelligence (fathered by Daniel Goleman) .

I could go on and on about how what not to do, but I’d rather discuss positive things great leaders know and do. So, here we go.

20 Things Great Leaders Know And Do:

  1. They are clear with objectives (theirs, the projects, the departments, the companies etc)
  2. They give others access to everything they need to succeed
  3. They believe in collaboration = team successes
  4. They don’t solve every challenge – they leave room for others to step in
  5. They realize that not every decision has to be their way. When a collaborative team makes a decision – as long as it meets the goals it should be accepted – even if it isn’t the way the leader would do it.
  6. They encourage others to provide options
  7. They provide professional development / career training opportunities
  8. They’re not afraid others will know more than they do (in fact they expect it if they hired well)
  9. Great leaders hire people who will stretch the creativity of the team and the business… and who will also be stretched by the work and experiences.
  10. They give everyone their respect
  11. They control their judgement and validate information when they feel the yard making assumptions (2 of my favourites)
  12. They manage everyone’s expectations (including their own)
  13. They are both firm and fair with their expectations and holding people accountable.
  14. They admit to their mistakes – and they call others on theirs. They see mistakes as learning opportunities – which likely includes coming up with options on how to recover from them.
  15. They forgive not-to-frequent mistakes and stay focused on long-term success
  16. They give credit where credit is due acknowledging other people’s success openly and proudly as well as the team’s success. Note: They do not take credit for others work or overstate their own successes.
  17. Their word and their integrity is critically important to them.
  18. They listen to everyone – because everyone has value and a unique perspective.
  19. They have a positive outlook. Rather than having to meet with a client – they believe they get the opportunity to listen to their client needs.
  20. They are empathetic and compassionate – they understand that sometimes rules need to be bent to support the individual… be it client or coworker.
  21. They appreciate hard work as much as smart work – because hard work builds dedication and loyalty.
  22. They are smart and confident. They have knowledge and expertise and they are comfortable sharing it with their people if / when it benefits the greater good. They never use it to grandstand.

There are a lot of moving parts to being a leader… and many of them are soft skills – behaviours that require leaders to be confident and secure in their own abilities – and to feel really comfortable giving up power and helping to build others abilities / experience.

So what we see is that a great leaders technical skill has little to do with the things great leaders know and do. Great leadership is about the values and soft skills / emotional intelligence we learn from our family, friends, teachers and even media. Great leadership is also about the values and soft skills / emotional intelligence we learn from our mentors.

The way I see it, by giving up power a great leader earns power and respect. Employees who work for micro-managers become stale, unimaginative and ultimately bored (which leads to them quitting and the organization losing everything they’ve invested in that person).

We also see that in many cases, being a mindful leader is about being mindful at work, knowing your triggers and practicing empathy and compassion. Being a great leader is something we can all ‘do’. And we are going to make a mistake – but as stated above leaders acknowledge their mistakes… just like they acknowledge and forgive not-to-frequent mistakes of their employees.

Great leaders are focused on the people and team – as well as the results. The work of Jack Zenger who examined great leaders identified the following interesting finding:

  • If a leader was ‘results’ focused, the chance of them being seen as a great leader was only 14%
  • If a leader was strong on ‘social skills’—such as empathy, the chance of them being seen as a great leader only 12%
  • If a leader was seen as being strong on both results and social skills, the chance of them being seen as a great leader rose to 72%.

* Source Psychology Today: Why Leaders Need To Be Likeable Rather Than Dominating


Personable, respectable leadership skills are crucial to your professional success. This doesn’t mean you have to be soft; absolutely not, you do have to hold people to account. Knowing how to have difficult conversations is part of being a great leader – just like being a great mentor. People will respect when you are fair – and they will respect when you hold them to task – what they wont respect is a dictator who drives a moving target or who doesn’t respect their staffs work / time / career.

Emotional intelligence and soft skills are key to a leaders’ success.

For a leader to development co-workers or clients, the ability to communicate is a key to success.

Happy communicating, learning and leading.

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Bruce Mayhew is founder and President of Bruce Mayhew Consulting a Professional Development firm that excels at quickly and easily tailoring programs to meet the unique needs of our clients and their employees. In addition to being an effective professional development trainer, Bruce is a popular conference speaker, writer and has been featured on major TV, Radio and Newspaper networks ranging from CTV to Global to The Globe & Mail.

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Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Email Etiquette, Managing Difficult Conversations, Mindfulness, Time Management and more.

Give us a call at 416 617 0462. We’ll listen.

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Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

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