Leaders in our workplaces have changed as the Millennial generation floods in and bosses get younger. Millennials now make up the largest chunk of the workforce and, according to a recent report by PwC, millennials will be 75% of workers by 2025.
Emerging leaders today are younger than previous generations with CareerBuilder reporting nearly 4 in 10 people are being managed by a boss who is younger than them. Is the next generation ready to lead and what can we do to empower them to get there?
Nurturing and attracting emerging leader talent can have huge advantages for business and enable a competitive edge according to PwC’s Millennials in the Workforce report. But emerging leaders aren’t fundamentally driven by money or climbing the corporate ladder. We must leverage the talents of the next generation and empower emerging leaders for success.
The key to empowering emerging leaders is to be their Leadership Guide and provide for them with opportunities to practice leadership skills and test their capabilities in an environment where it’s ok to flearn - fail and learn. Practice builds confidence and the knowledge they are ready for leadership.
Empower emerging leaders as a leadership guide
Just as a tour guide provides suggestions that helps tourists visit unfamiliar places and make the most of a city, a Leadership Guide provides suggestions and insights for the emerging leader on their path to leadership.
This is a partnership; it is the role of the emerging leader to take these insights, to take initiative and forge their own leadership path.
The Leadership Guide can create or hinder emerging leaders, build confidence and enable leadership readiness or they can get emerging leaders stuck. Leadership Guides must cultivate a culture and environment for the emerging leader to thrive in and provide or find leadership opportunities to practice the skills of leadership before they are in leadership roles. Practice is critical, it’s here that confidence is built.
Cultivating a culture to thrive
The key ingredients to a thriving culture are found in the modern models of leadership and high performing teams and include psychological safety, balancing independence and direction, authenticity, transparency and servant leadership.
The model of servant leadership sees leadership as an opportunity to serve others and shares power and control with the team. They have the attention off themselves and measure success through growth and development. This is a far cry from the traditional leadership approach of command and control which uses power to drive results and sees success as through outputs.
The Leadership Guide is a servant leader and there are many simple practices that can demonstrate this leadership style to empower emerging leaders. It could be as simple as rotating who chairs regular meetings, giving each person a turn to lead. If you are the leader, create a game of asking questions rather than telling the answer and speaking 20% of the time in meetings.
Balance independence and direction
Grant independence for emerging leaders by providing the context, the why and clarity on the vision of the organisation, team and project. Share the bigger picture that everyone is a part of and how their work and personal goals fit into this. When bringing on new members to my team ask what their personal goals are and map out how these fit into the project and the organisation.
Provide direction by setting appropriate boundaries and clearly communicating these. On my first project management role building $45 million of road projects in suburban Brisbane my manager Mary trained me step by step to build my independence. When I came to her with a problem Mary would ask me to go away and come back with three different solutions. I followed this process a number of times and then Mary asked me to come back with three solutions and choose the best one. Following the mastery of choosing the best solutions the options disappeared I was then tasked with coming to Mary with just the solution.
The Leadership Guide finds ways to create bite-sized chunks of responsibility to create independence and develop leaders in the thinking process that takes them there.
Opportunities for confidence and readiness
Get emerging leaders ready to lead by providing opportunities to lead before they are in leadership roles. This provides them with the opportunity to practice and demonstrate leadership in a safe environment, provides room to flearn (learn from failure) and step outside their comfort zone to test out their skills. All of this builds their leadership readiness.
It is through practice that emerging leaders build their inner self confidence, understand their skills and their value and see themselves as someone who can lead.
Opportunities for leadership could be taking on a special project within the team like taking the team’s connection up a notch. Or it could be an extra-curricular, out of work assignment like volunteering on a committee or organising a community event. Offer these opportunities and see who sticks up their hand and demonstrates leadership.
This is also a great way to test if this person is ready for leadership or if they require extra training. Observe and see if they demonstrated initiative, resourcefulness and adaptability, developed new skills and built a team around them.