Are Millennial Leaders Different?

January 10, 2017, 12:10 PM UTC
Millennials office work
Photograph by Getty Images/iStockphoto

Good morning.

The work habits of the newest, and largest, generation in the workforce are a popular topic for both research and pop-psych water cooler conversation. But until now, no one has looked specifically at millennial views of leadership. Former Aetna CEO Ron Williams, who runs a consultancy called RW2 Enterprises, teamed up with The Conference Board to fill the gap, and their report is being released this morning.


Much of its findings burst popular mythology. For instance, Millennials don’t value technology skills more highly than older leaders, don’t rank social values more highly, and aren’t more eager to change jobs.


But the study did find a striking difference in how millennial leaders and older leaders view the role of the CEO. It asked both current CEOs and rising millennial leaders to identify the talents they thought would be most important to a CEO ten years from now. Millennial leaders put the highest priority on interpersonal skills. “Their prototypical leader is an inspiring coach, a compelling communicator and one who…involves others in decision making rather than imposing decisions on them. “ As one focus group participant put it: “You don’t tell people what to do, you empower them.”

But current CEOs ranked interpersonal skills less highly, and instead give priority to “critical thinking” and “business and management skills” as well as “stakeholder management” – which were seen as less important by Millennials.

The report says this disconnect could put CEOs and Millennial leaders on a collision course, if not addressed. “Top leaders will groom and promote leaders who match their management-centric profile, while Millennial leaders will develop themselves toward an interpersonally focused profile.” You can read the full report here.

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