How young adults shake up traditional leadership roles: 5 key takeaways

The millennial generation isn't motivated by the aspects or perks of leadership that traditionally incentivized many of their more seasoned counterparts. For instance, millennials say it isn't the money, recognition or hierarchy that draws them to leadership roles, but the opportunity to inspire others and be a transformational figure.

Nearly half (47 percent) of 412 millennials surveyed by Virtuali and say they are motivated to serve as leaders because they want to empower others, while just 10 percent pointed to legacy and 5 percent said money is what motivates them.

Millennials are shaking up traditional conceptions of corporate leadership in several ways.

1. Millennials have expanded the definition of a leadership role. "Millennials view organizations much less hierarchically than previous generations," said Sean Graber, cofounder and CEO of Virtuali, a leadership-training firm and consultancy. "Being a leader for a millennial might not necessarily mean being a CEO or a VP, but the definition [of leadership] is more expansive for them."

According to the report, 91 percent of millennial respondents aspire to be leaders and 83 percent would prefer to work for companies with fewer layers of management.

2. Their biggest reservation about a leadership role is maintaining a healthy personal life. Most millennials (28 percent) chose work-life balance as their biggest worry associated with taking on a leadership role.

"Work-life balance was one of the biggest issues in taking on that next role, and as millennials assume these [leadership] roles, they will struggle with that more and more," said Mr. Graber. "But even though they might have some reservations, overwhelmingly, they want to assume these [leadership] positions."

Nineteen percent of millennials said fear of failure was also a concern.

3. Millennials say soft skills open the door to success. The most important skills survey respondents identified for a leader to possess are communication (chosen by 58 percent of respondents) and relationship building (55 percent), and 66 percent of respondents said relationship building is one of their strongest skills.

Millennials said their weakest leadership skills are industry experience (indicated by 43 percent of respondents) and technical expertise (41 percent).

4. They want greater opportunities for leadership development. Over half (55 percent) of survey respondents said they are not satisfied with their companies' leadership development opportunities, according to the report. Of this group, 68 percent want online classes or e-learning opportunities. Fifty-three percent want mentorship programs to help them prepare for leadership roles, and 42 percent want to shadow more experienced leaders.

5. Millennials are not interested in rigid leadership styles. Only 1 percent of survey respondents said they want to be autocratic leaders that fully control their company's policies and procedures, which has typically been the preferred leadership style of baby boomer leaders, according to CIO magazine. The majority of respondents (63 percent) said want to be transformational leaders who challenge and inspire others. The second most attractive leadership style was "democratic" (chosen by 22 percent of respondents), which is defined as "sharing decision-making with followers."

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