Millennial Leaders: Will they survive?

Margaret Wheatley (http://www.margaretwheatley.com/) has said

“I strongly believe that the old leadership paradigm has failed us and that our current systems will continue to unravel.  This has changed what I do and whom I choose to support.  I no longer spend any time trying to fix or repair the old or to improve old leadership methods.  I spend all of my time now supporting those giving birth to the new, those pioneering with new approaches to organizing and leading.

“New leaders must invent the future while dealing with the past…They must invent new processes and organizing forms, and simultaneously also solve the complex problems of this time.” Finding Our Way: Leadership for an Uncertain Time, Wheatley, Margaret. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2005. pps. 166-7

I love the tag line for her Berkana Institute (http://www.berkana.org/): “The leaders we need are already here”.  But, will they survive to revolutionize the organizations of today?

I recently read a story from CBS news that had a very different view of new leaders.  

The reporter described Millennials as having “been raised with a mouse in one hand and an iPod in the other – and the talent for driving a lot of people crazy.”  (http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/11/21/eveningnews/eyeontech/main4626122.shtml)

Apparently, managers everywhere are frustrated by this generation’s lack of interest in meetings and long documents, and are frustrated by their expectation that if they are finished work, they should be able to choose to stay or leave.  

It seems to me that with an economic crunch, managers should be thrilled to have employees who get results without putting in time, don’t waste time in meetings or writing long reports that become shelf-ware, and don’t spend downtime in the office bending the ear of other busy employees.

“Accounting giant Ernst & Young says by 2010, 60 percent of its employees will be Generation Y. So it’s holding ‘generational dynamics workshops’ as well as scheduling a face-to-face meeting with each new hire to introduce concepts like … meeting face-to-face. 

“‘That is our workforce, that is what we are going to build our firm on – they’re the leaders of tomorrow,’ said Ernst & Young’s Billie Williamson. 

“It’s all about flexibility and teamwork. In other words, Generation Y-ers could lose the stereo headphones once in a while, and the rest of us could lose the stereotypes.” 

Will this be enough?  Will companies like Ernst and Young also seek out the new approaches of young leaders as well as requiring old behaviours in order to comfort older employees?  Will new leaders be able to survive the onslaught of ridicule from old media like CBS long enough to help the world make the changes only they have the energy and skills for?  Will we all get past the tools and gadgets long enough to see the ideas and potential underneath and tap into that for our collective future?

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