I've worked with Millennials for the past 13 years so this is a subject that is very dear to my heart. I watch different executives and organizations try to develop young leaders only to be disappointed with the results. Maybe the problem is our approach? What if we met younger people where they are verses try to mold them into what we perceive a leader should be? Here are my observations over the past decade:
1) Purpose - Millennials are very "cause-driven." Look at all the civic minded protests and grassroots stands recently. Young people will stand up and fight for what they believe in. That translates over to career also. Most younger workers I see are bored at their jobs. Providing and implementing a vision for workers to follow is the leader's job. People want something and someone to follow. I'd say more than 80% of of the problems with employee morale and performance can be drawn back to lack of vision. Just like the old movie Field of Dreams said, "If you build it, they will come..." Paint a destination for your younger workforce to go towards.
2) Collaborate - Not many great things are accomplished alone. The Millennial leader is more effective as a team, opposed to an individual. Why do you think social networking is so popular nowadays? Long gone are the days where a single person is the decision maker. One complaint I get as a Business Coach from management is that younger workers don't take enough initiative on their own. I agree. They're indecisive. They need to be surrounded by strong people who can pose different perspectives in order to make the best decision possible. Know this about Millennials and start forming a team of leaders not just one.
3) Technology - Talk about being connected. Technology is available to everybody. Millennials just tend to take more advantage of it. Let's talk about efficiency. There are differing views on work ethic - quality vs. quantity. Millennials feel that if they can finish an 8-hour job in 4 hours, then they can spend their time however they want once they're done. As management, understand that younger workers are faster and sometimes even brighter than you. Challenge them to utilize the internet and other forms of technology to accomplish even more. For example, research in the library used to take hours which now can be done on the internet in minutes. Don't punish younger workers for this skill, use it to your advantage!
4) Mentoring - The Millennial Leader needs to be coached. You can't expect someone to be "professional" if they don't understand what that term means. As a Coach, I spend most of my time relating to my clients. I don't need to give them all the answers. I just need to listen to them and try to help them be as successful as they can be. Millennials are willing to learn. Most of them would put "career development" or "personal growth" as their top reason for staying at a company. Get involved! Pair them up with a Boomer or X'er. You'll be amazed at what they can retain.
The Millennials are a different breed than what we are used to. They need to be treated with care and respect. A wise man once said, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and expecting different results." Stop managing and start leading!