This is Part 1 of the Seven-Part Series, From Success to Significant: Critical leadership skills and competencies for the 21st Century emerging Gen Y or Millennial leaders.

Before we discuss the critical leadership competencies and skills required for the 21st century emerging leaders, I would like to outline briefly about the six living generations. The oldest of the six, the GI Generation (1901-1926), the Mature or the Silents Generation (1927- 1945), the Baby Boomers (1946 and 1964), Generation X (1965 and 1980), Generation Y or the Millennials (1981 and 2000), and finally the Generation Z or the Boomlets (born after 2001).

  • Although all six generations have played or are playing critical leadership roles, my research interests and coaching practices focuses on the Baby Boomers, and Generation Y or the Millennials, primarily for the following reasons:74.9 million Baby Boomers (ages 51-69) and 75.4 million Millennials (ages 18-34) represent the two largest workforces in U.S. history.

  • The Baby Boomers are exiting the workforce leadership, whereas, Generation Y or the Millennials are needed to fill in the leadership void created the Baby Boomers.

  • According to Pew Research report, “The Millennial generation continues to grow as young immigrants expand its ranks. Boomers are older and their numbers shrinking as the number of deaths among them exceeds the number of older immigrants arriving in the country”.

I believe, despite many misconceptions, Generation Y or the Millennials feel ready to take on the leadership role. However, the question is ‘is your organization prepared to meet the Baby Boomers leadership exoduses?’

Many studies and my experience suggest otherwise.

Let me explain why.

Population estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau (2015) there are only approximately 75.4 million Millennials (ages 18-34) to take the place of those vacating 74.9 million Baby Boomers (ages 51-69). These numbers reflect why business and industry need to be so concerned about brain drain and develop a strategy to combat it.

Jeff Green in his 2016 Bloomberg Businessweek article As Boomers Retire, Companies Prepare Millennials for Leadership Roles writes that according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ‘…until last year, boomers made up the largest portion of the U.S. population and approximately 56% of the Boomer population hold leadership positions; however, approximately 10,000 Boomers reach retirement age every day.’

A study conducted by AARP in 2008 documented the “Baby Boomer exodus from business and industry. While some Baby Boomers may be reevaluating their time line based on economic changes; there is still no question that a high percentage of the 76 million Boomers will be vacating corporate America in the next five years.”

Of the 75.4 million Millennials, only about 20 percent hold management jobs, while only 29 percent aspire to be leaders.

In response to a survey conducted by OI Partners, 54% of the 212 primarily large and mid-sized employers throughout North America responded that they did not have enough qualified leadership candidates working for them to succeed their retiring executives and managers, and 14% respondents were not sure if they have enough leadership successors in place.

In a Deloitte sponsored study, 86% of respondents expressed an urgent need to develop multiple generations of positive, energetic, effective and anabolic leaders.

I would say the luxury of time is gone. There is an urgent demand for leaders with global fluency and flexibility, building the ability to innovate and inspire others to perform, and acquiring new levels of understanding of rapidly changing technologies and new disciplines and fields. However, only 13% respondents admitted doing an excellent job of developing Gen Y or Millennial leaders.

The literature suggests that effective leadership in the 21st Century requires a complex and varied portfolio of leadership competencies such as driving for business results, working with others, building effective groups, and technological proficiency, etc. These leaders would also need enhanced cognitive skills and abilities, such as communicating effectively, problem solving, interpersonal skills, skills in human relations, teamwork, decisiveness and tenacity, and ability to develop organizational capabilities.

However, I feel most business leaders are still stuck in the old leadership model: organizational hierarchies influenced by two World Wars and the Depression, and structured along military lines, with multilayered structures to establish control through rules and processes.

The truth is, things are different now. The hierarchical model simply no longer works.

My experience tells me that most of Gen Y or Millennials, according to Pew Research are much better educated than earlier generations and have significantly higher IQ (Intelligence Quotient). They are also technically excellent, broadly talented, and enthusiastic about their roles as managers or leaders; however, they may have limited management and leadership skills or experience, and most will not have developed vital people-management skills.

For strange reasons, the institutions of higher learning, where we mostly learn IQ (Intelligence Quotient) neglect teaching the future leaders about self-leadership, emotional intelligence, mindfulness, and empathy.

My interest and focus is helping the Gen Y or Millennials become effective and significant leaders. In this ongoing blog series, I will discuss in-depth the 4 critical skills and competencies that are interdependent to leadership: Self-Leadership, Emotional Intelligence, Mindfulness, and Empathy. However, before I discuss these 4 critical elements, in my next post I will discuss who Gen Y or Millennials are and what makes them who they are.

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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