No, Millennials Are Not the Future of Workplace Leadership

I have written several times about the future of leadership, here and here in particular. It is no secret that the future of leadership is dire. Companies are experiencing difficult times in finding people that have the skills to become leaders and then they are doing a poor job of providing any training for leadership skills. In my opinion there are three factors that are contributing to this future of leadership problem.

Millennials Are Not the Future of Workplace Leadership

Factor One

Current leadership has done a very poor job of developing leaders from their current employees. I quoted Francis Koster from a Harvard Business Review article saying:

Corporations appoint people to supervisory positions at an average age of around 30, but these lucky people were first sent for supervisory training at an average age of 42! These individuals were doomed to spend fully one-third of their management career without ever undergoing training in how to be a supervisor and leader.

For some reason management works under the misconception that people come with built-in leadership skills. Some may have acquired some skills in their educational and early work life, but most have not. Without the leadership training people make their way forward, some becoming good leaders, while others fail in the effort. Yet management is often loathe to spend money and effort in conducting training for fear that the “trained” employee will take their skill set to another company. In the meantime they cheat the employees and the company by being so stingy.

Factor Two

A recent study by Saba and shows that only 31% of Millennial employees have any desire to be in leadership positions, at least in the corporate world. What makes it worse, at a time when everyone in HR is trying to encourage women to become leaders, only 36% of women in corporate positions have an interest in being in corporate leadership roles. At a time when women make up over half of the workforce that is a big hole in leadership potential.

Of course it may not be that Millennials don’t want leadership positions it just may be they don’t want corporate leadership positions. The Harvard Business Review article had a number of examples of Millennials taking on leadership positions but in programs that dealt with the environment, or race relations, or some other social endeavor. This leads us to Factor Three.

Factor Three

Many Millennials are making their own way in the world. Rather than working for companies, they are working for themselves. It is anticipated that 30% or more of Millennials will hold positions as freelancers, fending for themselves and not serving any one particular master. As is often the case, the ones that are able to create their own world are the really talented ones, just the talent that companies would need to take on leadership roles in the corporation.

Given the opportunity to create your world, the one offered by the corporation may seem dull and un-challenging. Corporations that wish to attract the leadership talent they need have to offer something more in the way of challenge, training, reward and meaning.

Until such time that corporations can really step up their game and make leadership positions seem meaningful and rewarding they will continue to struggle in finding the needed talent.

Let us hope that that realization comes soon if we want to see the corporate world survive.

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Mike Haberman

Michael (Mike) D. Haberman, SPHR is a consultant, speaker, writer of HR Observations, and co-founder of Omega HR Solutions, Inc. After over 30 years in HR he got tired of the past and focuses here on the Future of HR. Connect with Mike.

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