20th Century Leaders vs. 21st Century Connectors

words that describe the millennial generation

Source: lawschool2.com

Greg Smith, former Goldman Sachs employee, wrote a scathing letter about the cultural change that had occurred at his former employer. In it he stated that the culture of the firm switched from being customer-centric to money-centric. He described meetings where no time was spent brainstorming about how to help clients, rather the entire meeting was spent discussing how to make the most possible money off of them. Employees were even so callous to refer to their own clients as “muppets”. While reading the letter, I couldn’t help but to think of the collapse (morally and financially) of Enron, MCI Worldcom, Tyco, and other Wall Street firms from a few years ago. I am not sure that it will happen to them, but history tells us that irrelevance is a possibility.

My thoughts then switched to leadership and how it has been used for the wrong purposes as of late, greed being only one example. Dictionary.com suggests that a leader is a person who rules, guides, or inspires others. Unfortunately, many “leaders” in our society have been more focused on inspiring their teams to make money than positively impacting the triple bottom line.

I then thought about the millennial generation and an article that I read in Forbes. Read it here. The author, Glenn Llopis, discusses the five ways that millennials want to be led. His research showed that millennials want:

  • Empowerment – They dislike micromanagement, become deeply responsible for authority granted them, and won’t abuse the power in any way.
  • Mentorship – They enjoy storytelling, not bureaucratic corporate speak disguised as knowledge transfer. They want mentors who lead through action and observation.
  • To Manage Their Own Brand – Because millennials have used social media to develop their personal brands, they prefer not to have to redefine themselves in a corporate setting. If they are engaged in meaningful activity outside of work, they’ll use their values-driven brand to be engaged while at the office as well.
  • Trust – Millennials want to be given a task with clear goals and then be trusted to achieve it. They’re naturally wired to innovate and impact change positively, just let them do it.
  • Challenging Assignments – Don’t give them conventional tasks; continually test them with meaningful projects that help them push their own boundaries and further develop self.

Based on Llopis’ research, it appears that we now have a generation that potentially desires fewer “leaders” and places more emphasis on self-management. There is more desire among the younger generations to be connected, what Dictionary.com defines as “being meaningful or meaningfully related.” Perhaps the leaders of the 20th century need to be reshaped into the “connectors” of the 21st century.

A person who is a connector is someone who focuses on:

  • Continually learning and sharing those learnings with others
  • What is right for triple bottom line; people, planet, profit
  • Changing the world for the betterment of everyone involved
  • Development of a community where ideas and prosperity are shared openly
  • Showing the “why” of decisions

People all over the country will continue to use the word leadership and their definition of it will evolve as time passes. I encourage you to take a slightly different view and think about those in your network who are connectors, of ideas, of people, and of meaningful wealth (however you define it). Who truly has influence over you? The person who simply rules, guides, or inspires persons or groups of people? Possibly. How about the person, regardless of positional authority, who develops a community full of learning, with a focus on people and the planet, and who takes the time to show the “why” behind decisions and opportunities. I’d engage with this person as being a connector sounds much more meaningful.

How big is your community?