Professor of Leadership and Organisational Transformation Ashridge Hult Ashridge Executive Education
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Leadership: how to nurture emerging millennial leaders

With millennials predicted to make up half of the workforce by next year, businesses need to create working environments that reflect their needs in order to attract and retain key talent.

18th Nov 2019
Professor of Leadership and Organisational Transformation Ashridge Hult Ashridge Executive Education
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millennial workers looking at laptops together
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Business is still seen by many as a mere factory for making money for shareholders, rather than as an organisation with intention of identifying solutions and improving quality of life for various stakeholders. A dominant strategy for many businesses is to put profits before people, forgetting that, ultimately, all profits come from the activity of people.

With advancements in technology, millennials have access to all the information and knowledge they need to succeed in employment. So, the differentiating factor is the human factor: the quality of interpersonal relationships, the energy that they bring to work, the inspirational way in which the workplace is designed, and the recognition that organisational environment is one of the important factors that drives productivity.

The rapid progress and challenges of the global innovation economy mean that the importance of reconnecting with positive human values and focusing on people as sources of value creation is growing.

Effectively, if the moral purpose or reason for working is not being addressed or met, and it is driven predominantly by the economic purpose, an organisation will fail.

We need to move away from the 'command and control' approach to management in order to attract talent, and monetary reward is not enough to attract and retain the most talented and motivated people.

For most people, there is a desire to have their quality of life transformed when working for an organisation whose purpose they believe in, and whose leaders encourage and coach them to make the most of their ability. This is a gift that, for many, is priceless.

So, to attract and retain talent nowadays, leadership should not be a privilege of those at the top of the organisational hierarchy. It should be something people participate in, fostering collaboration, bringing people in, and encouraging them to make the most of their abilities.

The emergent leadership model

In my book, The Management Shift, I describe the concept of 'levels' of individual mindset and the corresponding organisational culture. In the ‘emergent leadership model’ outlined in the book, level 1 is negative and seriously dysfunctional, and it goes all the way through to level 5, which is unbounded and passionate.

Each level is characterised by specific thinking patterns, behaviour, language used, leadership style and organisational outcomes. For example, level 1 is characterised by apathy or destructive behaviour, and level 2 by reluctant behaviour when people do the minimum they need to do to be paid.

There is a particularly significant shift from level 3 (which is ordered and bureaucratic) to level 4, which is where highly engaged and inventive performance begins. The keywords at this level are: trust, transparency, purpose, collaboration, passion for work, giving back to the society and having fun working.

Level 5 is where passionate people combine creatively and with inspiration to make a difference for the world.

Level 4 of the emergent leadership model allows for compassion, purpose and creativity to thrive between colleagues, resulting in more contentment, prosperity and inspiration. In addition, employers treat people with respect who are engaged and motivated to do their best at work.

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Engaging millennials

Millennials fall under level 4 management, wanting more opportunities, and looking for meaning and feedback to progress and succeed. At level 4, there is a motivating force for improving quality of life. Individuals are motivated to commit themselves and to contribute, through positive example, collaboration and an enlightened sense of purpose.

Level 4 (and 5) mindset and organisational culture create positive ripples that spread out from individuals to the group, and from one group to another. Eventually they spread to entire organisation and the society at large.

Level 4 management is becoming increasingly important. The rapid progress and challenges of the global innovation economy mean that the importance of reconnecting with positive human values and focusing on people as sources of value creation is growing. Companies that get this will outperform their competitors.

Overall, organisations that nurture millennials and have processes, level 4 organisational culture and incentives in place, enthuse them to unleash their creativity and passion to work. When this happens, talent attraction and retention will take care of itself.

Interested in this topic? Read Talent management: why horizontal growth is key to retaining job-hopping millennials.

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