In sharing some of my thoughts about millennial leadership recently, I was hoping that I would create more questions than answers in an effort to further the conversation. In the days since that post, there has been a repeated theme in replies and questions that I have received.
One email I received serves as a good example. This person wrote,
“You might want to consider that being a millennial may not be generational (and you may have implied it) even though millennials as a generation may be more prominent. Given the characteristics, some might consider me a ‘millennial’ leader by your post.”
This email came from a person in their mid to upper 50’s, so by generation categories, not a millennial. Interestingly, Ted Coine pondered this exact point in his post last week. It also raises a question which I believe Jon Mertz has been actively pursuing on his blog for quite awhile, and if you visit his Twitter profile page you will see the introduction: “With a thin difference between two generations, a vast opportunity exists to create a big leadership story. Close the gap & enable Millennial leaders to excel.”
Nevertheless, I wanted to ask the question based on this email, so I reached out on Twitter.
That query led to this helpful response from Jon:
I agree wholeheartedly with Jon that there are leadership principles across generations. This begs the question then, what do you think about millennial leadership and generations?
I think this shows first of all the challenge and perhaps inability to neatly categorize leadership by age generations, not that I nor anyone really is trying to do that. All we have noticed is that there is a seemingly higher prevalence of these leadership traits occurring among millennials. It only makes sense though that they have resonance and roots in other generations as well. Because of this, perhaps the “early adopters” of millennial leadership were actually some people who were “Baby Boomers” or at least from another generation? (This might be seen in the way previous generations have been, and continue to be, authentic, adaptive, and connected in their leadership among other ways.)
The characteristics, traits and approaches prevalent among millennials though perhaps learned by themselves, have also been learned through life by being mentored, taught, and being in relationship with other generations. (For example, much of what I understand about being a leader I have learned from my parents and a plethora of professors, colleagues and mentors.) I suspect you are the same way if you are reading this post. What are your experiences? What characteristics, traits, and approaches have you learned or picked up along the way thanks to others?
Perhaps the biggest take away from this question is that there isn’t an easy answer? Perhaps the best answer is that being a millennial does not necessarily mean one was born between the 1980’s and early 2000’s? Ted Coine concludes his post from last week by asking and explaining,
“Are you a practical idealist like me? And like many of the 80 million young people who are, right now, changing the world we live in through the meaningful work that they do? Then you’re a Millennial, too – even though you hate that term.”
So, what do you think? Are you a millennial? And if so, are you one because the values, characteristics and traits suggest you are one or because of where you fall generationally? Does it really matter?