This is Part 2 of the Seven-Part Series, From Success to Significant: Critical leadership skills and competencies for the 21st Century emerging Gen Y or Millennial leaders.

In my previous blog Is Your Organization Prepared to Meet the Baby Boomers Leadership Exodus?, I had discussed the vacuum being created by the exit of Baby Boomers from the leadership positions and why business and industry need to be so concerned about brain drain and develop a strategy to combat it.

Before we discuss the critical concerns about the leadership brain drain and the need to develop a strategy to combat it, let me first talk about the misconceptions, myths, realities, and needs of Gen Y or Millennials.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Millennial” is currently one of the most popular buzzwords in the media. As of 2015, Millennials became the largest generation in the American workforce.

Google search of the term Millennials or Gen Y resulted in 55,600,000 related links. Majorities of these links are web content factories and amateurs populating the repositories with bad information and inaccurate data with minimum solid empirical research, often giving a bad rap to Millennials or Gen Y such as they are lazy or don't work hard. And yet, there is no empirical evidence of this whatsoever.

Conversely, some of these sources are experts in their subject matter that suggest that Millennials or Gen Y question the status quo, have high expectations of work, offer criticism on something that can make an organization better, and expect their work to be more than just bringing home a paycheck (Jeffrey Jensen Arnett).

Let’s first establish who Millennials or Gen Y are.

According to Kate Meyer in her article Millennials as Digital Natives: Myths and Realities, “A Millennial is broadly defined as someone who became an adult around the year 2000.” Chuck Underwood in American Generation: In the workplace, marketplace, and living room, defines Generation Y or the Millennials as “America’s first full-blown Technology Generation,” someone who was raised in a digital, media-saturated world and who are optimistic about their long-term future, [however], much less certain about their nation and its economy.

Meyer adds, Millennials are racially diverse, the most educated generation to date, have high expectations, are confident in their skills, demonstrate tendency to multitask that reduces their task efficiency, and error prone.

Bruce N. Pfau in What Do Millennials Really Want at Work? The Same Things the Rest of Us Do writes that conventional wisdom holds that Millennials are entitled, easily distracted, impatient, self-absorbed, lazy, and unlikely to stay in any job for long. On the positive side, they are also looking for purpose, feedback, and personal life balance in their work.

Companies of all kinds are obsessed with understanding them better.

Gen Y or Millennials are not different that any of the previous generation; more alike than different in their attitudes and values at work. To the extent that any gaps do exist, they amount to small differences that have always existed between younger and older workers throughout history and have little to do with the Millennial generation per se.

Brandon Rigoni and Amy Adkins in their article What Millennials Want from a New Job (HBR, May 2016) provide a research based in-depth look, suggesting Millennials shop around for the jobs that best align with their needs and life goals.

Much like other generations, Gen Y or Millennials want to make a positive impact on their organization, achieve financial security, training, and skills development that supports their personal and professional growth. They view business positively, having a positive impact on the wider society, and want to make an impact through their employers.

Gen Y or Millennials have the tools and technological finesse. However, does being the ‘Technology Generation’ mean that Generation Y or Millennials possess inferior social skills, or are more likely to avoid personal interaction in favor of digital interaction?

One misconception about Gen Y or Millennials is that they particularly lack in social skills. The lack of social skills such as Self-Leadership, Emotional Intelligence, Mindfulness, and Empathy can be true of people of any generation. The fact is that they communicate and socialize much differently from the other generations, and at times, some engage in behavior that older generations would consider unconventional or outright rude.

However, does it mean that we should label the entire generation as lacking social skills and certain key behaviors such as self-leadership, emotional intelligence, mindfulness, and empathy that are critically important to succeed in the 21st Century business environment?

I think not.

I believe in part that the responsibility rests with the institutions of higher learning, where we mostly learn IQ (Intelligence Quotient) but neglect teaching social-emotional skills such as self-leadership, emotional intelligence, mindfulness and empathy.

In my experience, Generation Y or the Millennials, as all previous generations, want to learn and they want to work hard. Employers must adapt to generational needs, commit the resources, and engage them for the long term by identifying, learning, and refining the skills required, and by coaching and modelling the right skills and competencies.

In the next posts of this series, I will focus on addressing their specific needs, which my research and experience suggest are the critical skills and competencies that are interdependent to leadership; Self-Leadership, Emotional Intelligence, Mindfulness, compassion, and Empathy.

Question: Do you think there is a willingness to develop Generation Y or the Millennials leaders in your organization?

Dr. Shahid SheikhDr. Shahid Sheikh has been consulting internationally since 1987, and coaching professionally since 2013. With over 40 years of progressive management and leadership experience as a military officer, marketing specialist, entrepreneur, dean/provost/chief academic officer, and corporate consultant, Dr. Sheikh now helps high-impact Generation Y or the Millennials executives, business owners, and entrepreneurs succeed in their careers and leadership and achieve exceptional business results through self-leadership, emotional intelligence, mindfulness, and empathy. In addition to a Doctorate in Organization Change, he is also certified at the ACC level by the ICF (International Coach Federation).

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