Nurturing Millennial Leaders

According to a survey, each day approximately 10,000 baby boomers retire. By 2020, 48% of the workforce will be made of millennials. Because of this scenario, 84% of organizations are bound to feel the lack of leaders in the organization in the next 5 years.

How can we mold Millennials to embrace and develop leadership skills? Being a millennial entrepreneur myself, I always seek out coaches who help me develop my own leadership skills. Around 95% of Millennials feel either that they lack fully developed leadership skills or don’t feel that they’re prepared to lead at all.

I connected with Leadership expert and author of Leadership Step By Step Joshua Spodek to get some insights on Leadership. Here are some of the answers he gave me during our conversation:

Q: Any advice for someone who is going into a leadership position for the first time?

A: First, over and over again, I see the most successful leaders focus on the people they serve and their problems. People who want to just be leaders put the cart before the horse.
The most successful way I know to lead is to identify a cause that stirs you up and gets you motivated enough to give beyond where others stop. When you keep going and they follow, you’re leading.

Second, passion helps only when you have the social and emotional skills to act effectively. Traditional education—lectures, case study, watching videos, writing papers, etc.—don’t teach those skills; schools rarely do. That’s why many great performers have left school.

Those skills come from experience. Not to plug my material, but my book, Leadership Step by Step, gives you exercises that develop them. The lack of relevant resources prompted me to develop the set of exercises that teach the basics of the practice of leadership.

Q: Tips on how to face failure without losing the morale of the team?

A: Redefine the concept as a learning experience. We’ve all failed: I just got chewed out a couple weeks ago for dealing with a problem publicly that I should have handled more sensitively. In passing, another leadership coach mentioned that he did something similar.

As I put it:

People who suck at things tell you how great they are.
People who are great love telling you about the disasters that got them there. Their stories are more fun.

We pay people with relevant experience more. Experience doesn’t just mean having lived longer. Watching TV eating ice cream is an experience; we don’t value it because it doesn’t teach us.

Failure teaches us. Well, it can if we choose to learn from it.

Q: How can young entrepreneurs ensure that they continue to grow and develop as a leader?

A: Focus on developing social and emotional skills and experience. They don’t come by accident, nor by someone handing them to you.

Learning functional skills like accounting, programming, sales, and so on are valuable, but they aren’t leadership skills.

Leadership skills overlap with many functional skills, but ultimately leadership involves social and emotional skills, which come from overcoming social and emotional challenges.

Q: Who inspired you to be a leader and why?

A: The leadership I show emerged from working on problems that people cared about beyond where they stopped. My work led to teams forming that I helped lead.

I’m passionate about the environment, and this is an area where I see a lack of leadership. Sadly, I see more of the opposite — people venting, blaming, calling names, and so on, putting their interests first. They’re motivating people to resist them — the very opposite of leadership.

If anything inspired me to lead in the area of the environment, it’s that billions of people want to lower their impact but can’t see how to. It’s hard to change systems by yourself. They feel alone, powerless, guilty, unmotivated.

I believe they would appreciate someone making them feel like they’re part of a community that acts together on projects likely to succeed.

I’m filling in that role. My first step is my podcast, ‘Leadership and the Environment,’ in which I invite influential people to take on personal challenges to live by their values on the environment. They share their stories, struggles, and triumphs. Most of them grow, wish they had taken on the challenge earlier, and want to do more after.

I believe that listeners will connect with influential people more than scientists, reporters, or professors. So far, I’ve interviewed Dan Pink, Marshall Goldsmith, Judith Glaser, and other TED speakers, #1 bestselling authors, leadership gurus, with more to come.

You can also hear how I apply leadership lessons from my book and course in my life.

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