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Lead Your Team Leadership

Redefining the C-Suite: The New Role of Millennial Leaders

image for Sjale / Getty Images
Sjale / Getty Images
  • Managers are learning new strategies to manage millennials in the workplace. The generation responds to different leadership techniques than other employees.
  • A C-suite role focuses more on positivity, and millennials are projected to change the role of traditional CEOs.
  • Workplace strategies for millennials include the creation of a healthy workplace, limitations on technology during working hours, and a laser focus on purpose-driven work assignments.

Managers wondering how best to develop their up-and-coming leaders will find no shortage of advice. Many discussions about millennials in the workforce treat the present situation like an unprecedented emergency requiring a survival guide. However, an American Express survey called Redefining the C-Suite: Business the Millennial Way looks to the future with a decidedly more optimistic tone. The survey findings identify core millennial values of creativity, autonomy and reciprocity as foundational to the future of business leadership.

American Express' research questioned whether millennials necessarily aspire to executive roles as previous generations have. The answer is a complicated yes. Seven in 10 American millennial respondents said a C-suite role is attractive to them, but more than a third believe that within 10 years, "the CEO role will no longer be relevant in its current format."

With that in mind, it's perhaps most accurate to say executive roles will evolve rather than disappear as millennials advance in their careers. Leadership will take on a new form, which tomorrow's leaders are in the process of defining. The millennial leader will not be the "hero CEO" of the 20th century. Rather than taking a detached, top-down approach, tomorrow's CEOs will foster a balanced power structure, supporting workplaces that value fairness, integrity, openness, teamwork and empathy.

If you're a millennial hoping to secure a place in the C-suite, whatever it may look like, here are some tips based on the findings of the survey.

Millennials care about feeling fulfilled in their work, and fulfillment goes beyond a paycheck or bottom line. A majority of survey respondents defined success as enjoying the work they do (62%) and also having a good work-life balance (58%) – and millennial leaders will try to engender these forms of success in others.

This shifting definition of success encompasses not only individual career aspirations but the overall success of a business. To roughly three-quarters of respondents, a successful business "should be flexible and fluid in the face of volatile working environments and not enforce a rigid structure on employees" and "will need to support employees outside of work." There is a strong emphasis on maintaining work-life balance. There is less of a drive about working long hours to get into the next income bracket. Employers are learning to be more accommodating of things like flexible scheduling. The standard 9-to-5, Monday-to-Friday workweek can be a turnoff to employees. Allow for remote work days if possible.

Health initiatives can also be part of you putting well-being first. Many employers offer perks such as free gym memberships or free physicals. You could also hold company retreat days at holistic centers.

With the ubiquity of mobile technology, many workers never truly leave the office. Fifty percent of millennials surveyed feel the pressure to be "always available."

As digital natives, millennials are uniquely equipped to establish best practices for the use of technology in the workplace. This can include restricting the use of email and other digital communication channels to office hours. In many cases, companies are creating contracts that reflect the employee's acceptance of digital workplace policies. The contract may also include rules about how they are permitted to use company technologies or the company name. For instance, you may ask for restrictions on what type of social media posts they make publicly about their workplace.

You may also want to review communication policies. Managers should encourage formality between employees and clients in all electronic communications. There should also be recommendations on acceptable response times. You want to set an expectation of how readily available the employee should be to respond to messages.

Sixty-eight percent of American millennials surveyed "want to be known for making a positive difference in the world," and 81% say that "a successful business will have a genuine purpose that resonates with people." Aspiring leaders should foreground corporate responsibility and create a standard of positive change, rather than simply following regulations and minimizing negative impact relative to your competitors.

Nowadays, the public is savvy and often cynical. They can easily sniff out the difference between doing good and having good PR. Make sure you can too. Your company should also learn how to recognize the workers who deliver the desired results. Positive feedback and recognition are important aspects of workplace culture. Many employees leave their jobs due to toxic work environments. An employee wants to feel cared for as a person, not a gear in a cog. Make it a point to celebrate small successes and remain encouraging as to their progress. Never assign busywork that has the sole purpose of making the employee work for their wages. Push employees out of their comfort zones and allow them to shine.  

Business News Daily Editor

Business News Daily was founded in 2010 as a resource for small business owners at all stages of their entrepreneurial journey. Our site is focused exclusively on giving small business advice, tutorials and insider insights. Business News Daily is owned by Business.com.