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

Redefining the C-Suite: The New Role of Millennial Leaders
Credit: GaudiLab/Shutterstock

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, a recent American Express survey, 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 percent) and also having a good work-life balance (58 percent) – 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."

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.

Sixty-eight percent of American millennials surveyed "want to be known for making a positive difference in the world," and 81 percent 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 good PR. Make sure you can too.

For more leadership tips, visit Business News Daily's guide for new managers.

Ethan Spielman

Ethan Spielman is a freelance writer and editor who lives in Brooklyn. He's open to most experiences, including nearly all experiences involving words. If you're interested in his services, you can reach him at ethanspielman@gmail.com.