Empowering Millennials to Lead

Millennials now make up over 50% of the workforce and by 2025 it is expected that this will grow to more than 75%. As the millennial generation stretches between those born in 1981 to those born in 1996 is is possible that they will be in both junior clinical roles as well as senior management positions. Generational differences have long been debated between baby boomers, Gen X and millennials and these differences cause friction between individuals and teams. This is often down to stereotyping and a change in fundamental priorities between Gen X and Millennials in particular.

It is common to hear Gen X describing Millennials as “in it for themselves”, seeking “portfolio careers”, of having a “poor work ethic”, being “narcissistic”, “having an air of entitlement” and subsequently summed up as not being very good leaders. Now clearly this is a narrowed focus and created by a misunderstading between the two generations. As the Baby Boomer and X generations are retiring it is leaving leadership positions vacant for Millennials and therefore the conversation needs to shift from what makes Millennials poor leaders to preparing them to lead. That is exactly what The SHAPE Framework is designed to do – help highlight the differences between the two generations and use the strengths to create excellent leaders of the future.

The SHAPE framework isn’t just for Baby Boomers and Gen X to see the strengths of Millennials it is also designed to help Millennials see their potential weaknesses and therefore this makes a really useful team reflection tool and help breakdown stereotyping between the two generations. Below will be a quick summary of the framework. This isn’t a model which is empirical in nature it is more of a synthesis of thoughts and ideas borne out of the literature and more of a tool to get you thinking rather than base sweeping service and workforce changes upon. It is also worth noting this is very much an American Style model and will most likely need to be adopted to different cultures.

S – Seek to Understand

Multiculturalism and equality and diversity has been a central part of millenial culture and therefore this has readily equipped them with the foundations to lead multi-cultural teams. Understanding individual difference is a real strength of this generation and this will help address conflict within their teams but aid ‘cross pollination‘ of ideas.

H – Humbly Communicate

Some say that Millennials can be heavy handed in their approach to communication and again feeds the inability to lead stereotype. Work by Dean et al suggests that this is the same whenever there is a large transition between generations and therefore the focus should be on enabling the new generation to work on their skills. As we all have learned communication in the workplace is something that is learned not innate so why would it be different for Millennials?

The humble aspect to this part of the framework is important as Millennials have been proven to lean towards narcissistic and slef-confident end of the spectrum, which is thought to be bourne from the intense pressure to succeed  and competition for resources that many have faced in their younger years. There is a right balance to be achieved here and it is possible ot change and this is arguably where Millennials need the most help from Gen X.

A – Authenticity

As Millennials see themselves as individualistic, previous and traditional models of leadership may not be as effective and an Authentic Leadership Style is something worth adopting. This approach encourages leaders to look inwards and build their own strengths and values whilst being self-aware and true to themselves. This style builds trust and builds strong relationships with colleagues and teams alongside motivation and has foundations in emotional intelligence and embracing vulnerability something perhaps Gen X need to learn from Millennials in this respect.

P – Partner with Others

With the economic challenges Millenials have and will continue to face team work and relationship buidling between people and organisations is an  essential skill in order to maximise efficiency and cost-saving. The fact that many grew up in economic turmoil means that this approach has been fostered from a young age and collaboration is commonplace for this generation. The internet of things (IoT) and exposure to different IT systems and communication methods also lend themselves to being able to build relationships quicky.

E – Engage in Future Thinking

Millennials are naturally innovation minded and less resistant to change than previous generations. The rate of disruption n healthcare markets is increasing constantly and the ability to adapt and flex to competing needs and unexpected change is an asset to the Millenial mindset however they may feed this pace of change inadvertantly and may need to be grounded.

Clinical Importance

This model is a good tool to prompt conversation and think about how we should be enabling the leaders of the future to maximise their skill set. Clearly Millennials shouldn’t be tarnished with the same brush by the previous generation and simple tools like this can ease the friction between Gen X & Y by improving understanding between the two as the generational torch is passed between them.