As an increasing number of baby boomers hit retirement age, there is a growing concern in some sectors that there aren’t enough younger people with the necessary skills to fill the leadership positions being left vacant. Indeed, a recent survey found that fewer than half of HR professionals think they have enough potential leaders in their talent pool.
This is particularly seen as an issue with millennials, now in their 20s and early 30s, who should be some of the key players looking to step up into leadership positions, either now or in the near future.
But is there really a lack of leadership potential among younger workers? Or is it simply that millennials’ ideas about what makes a good leader are different from those of older generations?
What do we mean by leadership?
When assessing whether there really is a lack of future leaders in business, we need to define what we actually look for in a leader. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development defines leadership as:
“The capacity to influence people, by means of personal attributes and/or behaviours, to achieve a common goal.”
The stereotypical leader motivates their workforce through a mixture of carrot and stick. Work hard and you’ll be praised, maybe even get a bonus or a pay rise. Fail to do your job adequately, however, and you’ll get told off, put on probation or even fired. These kind of leaders are usually highly autocratic, setting the direction for their team based on their own ideas and instincts.
Millennials, however, tend to have different values to baby boomers. They are more like to value friendship, openness and companies with more of a social conscience. This is reflected in their ideas about leadership. Younger people are more likely to look for leaders with strong communication skills, who make them feel listened to and valued.
This raises the possibility that, rather than there being a real leadership gap, there is simply a gap between what the different generations perceive as leadership potential.
Do millennials lack ambition?
One accusation frequently thrown at millennials is that they don’t have a strong work ethic or enough ambition, however there is little objective evidence to support this. Instead, many ambitious young people are simply choosing to head out on their own, rather than working their way up the ranks in established companies.
Around 14% of UK workers are now self-employed and this number is expected to grow significantly in the coming decades. This is not surprising given that the self-employed often earn more and have greater freedom and flexibility. The UK also has a thriving startup scene, with a record-breaking 608,100 new businesses starting in 2015.
For many younger workers, the idea of being self-employed or starting up a company of their own makes sense. The rapidly changing nature of technology means that there are all sorts of opportunities for new businesses for people savvy enough to identify and exploit them. It’s also increasingly possible for clever people to start businesses with nothing more than laptop and a wifi connection. This makes starting a new company a low-risk, potentially high-reward prospect which is obviously a very attractive idea for anyone with ambition and a little entrepreneurial flair.
How to attract and nurture future leaders
The key then is to understand what a millennial leader looks like and then figure out how to attract them to your company and how to keep them there.
Improving communication between younger and older employees is key. This will help baby boomers understand what millennials are looking for in their leaders and will give younger workers an insight into the skills they need to be considered potential leaders by senior management.
It’s also important to provide clear development pathways for young employees, so they know exactly what their potential career trajectory will be within your company. Combine this with first-class development and mentoring and you are giving strong candidates a clear reason to choose working for you over starting their own businesses: the opportunity to learn and grow in a stable environment.
Show clever, ambitious young people what you need from them and that there is room for them to reach their full potential in your company and many will jump at the chance. This will allow you to develop the strongest possible talent pool of potential future leaders.
Where to look next for future business leaders
Next Ventures is one of the world’s top technology recruitment firms. We work with some of the best known names in the tech industry to help them find the talent they need to keep their businesses growing strong. Whether you are looking for millennial leadership candidates or any other kind of employees, we use a unique mix of innovative methods to find you the very best people.
A key part of our success is down to our graduate academy, “The Next Step”, which produces forward-thinking technology recruitment professionals who go above and beyond to help our clients find the perfect potential employees.
So, if you are a company looking for your next exceptional employee or are a graduate keen to break into the exciting work of technology recruitment, please contact Next Ventures today.