The Leadership traits of the entitled generation

Peter Guber, director of the movie Gorillas in the Mist, narrates of the nightmare of shooting on location in Rwanda with 200 animals that wouldn’t ‘act.’ The screenplay called for the gorillas to do what was written.

Of course they didn’t listen! Guber’s team were disappointed and ready to fall back on a flawed formula that had failed before—that of using dwarfs in gorilla suits on a sound stage.

During their emergency meeting a young intern asked, “What if you let the gorillas write the story? What if you sent a really good cinematographer into the jungle with a ton of film to shoot the gorillas? Then you could write a story around what the gorillas did on the film.”

Everyone laughed and wondered what the intern was doing in a meeting with experienced filmmakers. But ultimately they did exactly what she suggested, and the cinematographer “came back with phenomenal footage that practically wrote the story for us,” Guber says, “We shot the film for $20 million, half of the original budget”.

Are we trying to shoot gorillas in our Organization today?

Leadership is by its very definition is an art based on followership. But the current leaders are like the crew in Guber’s team, trying to solve a problem from their storyline and the employees (gorillas) are actually unaware of the parameters.

This is specifically true for the largest generational cohort in the Organizations today – The Millennials.

Googling  famous millennials inevitably leads to some mix of tech moguls like Zuckerberg or 22 year old Ritesh Agarwal, politicos like Ivanka and Jared, royals such as Prince William, actors like Alia Bhatt and Scarlett Johansson, fashion starlets like Kendall Jenner, music icons like Beyonce and Justin Bieber, sports stars like Kohli, plus inspirational figures like Malala.

Do any of these famous people truly represent millennials? Yes and no, just like the rest of us.

Millennials are the single largest generational cohort in corporate landscape across the world. Yet they are judged, debated and falsely called entitled and snowflakes. Everyone gets it. Conventional wisdom holds that Millennials are entitled, easily distracted, impatient, self-absorbed, lazy, and unlikely to stay in any job for long. Companies of all kinds are obsessed with understanding them better. Unlocking and harnessing the potential of modern talent is the ultimate key to survival in today’s global, hyper-connected, digital society they say and yet, the millennial voices not being heard on uniquely millennial issues. More to the point, why aren’t there more millennials talking about millennial issues? Why do we have the Gen X, the baby boomers, the silent generation and others trying to understand a generation that is vastly different and come up with judgements rather than solutions? Why are the Millennials sorely underrepresented in the leadership roles?

I began my journey in understanding this generation with these questions in mind. Organizations have issues with team effectiveness, performance and the behavior of the younger generation. Ironically the younger generation are the future and maybe trying to understand their idea of leadership would throw better light.

I have spoken with hundreds of millennial and my question has been – In today’s shifting landscape, what practices and conditions will optimize the development of a successful working environment?

Answering this question may be more illusive than it seems. The answers have been rich in information, filled with passion, sometimes anger, others humorous but the basic tenets that the millennials see as traits of leadership are – Inclusive, Global Connector, Entrepreneurial, Flexible, Social, Facilitative, Collaborative, Agile, Continous learning and technology competent.

There is an evolving scholarship and a changing understanding underway of the fundamentals of leadership. Collaborative and shared leadership are central themes in our transforming perception of leadership.

“The current generation has stumbled on an incredibly powerful and important model for changing the world and the workplace: the network.” The ten themes around which the Millennials today work and lead creates a paradigm shift in the dynamics of Organizational working.

The Millennials are the future. And they have decided their leadership traits.

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