4 Things That Gave Rise to the “Unleadable Millennial” and How to Fix It
November 2, 2016
Simon Sinek recently gave a speech on how to lead the Millennial. He emphasized the fact that many leaders today come to the conclusion that those born in 1984 or later (the “Millennial”), are “apparently unleadeable”. That Millennials have attracted the reputation of being entitled, narcissistic and lazy. Sinek believes this characterization is wrong. As a side note, Sinek is an internationally renowned speaker most notably known for “Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action", he is not a Millennial and was born in 1973.
When asked how he deals with Millennials, Simon gave 4 observations that led him to the conclusion that the answer to the Millennial lies within the capacity of a Manger or Leader to have empathy.
Sinek’s 4 Observations:
PARENTING: the Millennial was brought up under a “failed parenting strategy”. Where kids were taught that they were “special” and that they could have whatever they want. That to get a medal or ribbon, they did not have to win or place – all they had to do was participate. That if they didn’t like their teacher, they could have their parents complain to the school and be moved to a different class. Then, once graduated that same child moves into the workforce and learns that their parents can’t complain to get a new boss, or that they actually have to perform to maintain their job or get recognition. This is a brutal lesson to learn that often obliterates self-confidence for the child that was used to getting everything they wanted.
TECHNOLOGY: when we engage in social media a chemical called dopamine is released, it causes a sense of joy. When our phones buzz or beep it feels good. Other things that feel good, alcohol, gambling, nicotine or drugs also release dopamine. Because social media and cell phones release dopamine and are not age restricted like drugs and alcohol, youth are getting addicted to social media at younger ages to feel joy and get approval. This addiction is therefore getting hardwired into youth at younger and younger ages. When we are young, the only approval we need is the approval of our parents but as we evolve Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers would seek the approval of our peers. Instead of today's youth seeking solace in a relationship or a person, they are seeking solace in approval from “follows” or likes. An entire generation is now growing up having not practiced or learned coping mechanisms through human interaction for stress. The skills of human connection are not being learned. If you don’t like a person, or don’t want to engage in something – you just unfollow or swipe left. The result of this addiction to technology is lower self-confidence, not learning human coping mechanisms and people turning to devices rather than people for comfort. All of this leads to curated lives where we are able to control how we appear and want to be seen, with filters to keeping out whatever we don’t want to deal with.
IMPATIENCE: Millennials have grown up in a world of instant gratification. You want to buy something, go online and it is delivered the next day, you can instantly stream movies or binge watch entire TV series. If you want a date, you go online and weed through hundreds of people within minutes. Many Millennials struggle to have deep trusting relationships with their own peers and friends. The sense of fulfillment is treated like a scavenger hunt, Millennials aren’t finding what they need to feel fulfilled – they quit rather than persevere through the challenges. The concept that you find a job you love because you work hard every day is lost on this generation. Millennials have an institutionalized sense of patience and do not have the patience to go on the journey to find love or passion for a career. When the journey is not going quickly or as planned, the commitment is abandoned without explanation – the job is quit or the relationship is ended.
ENVIRONMENT: we are taking a generation with lower self-esteem, a lack of coping mechanisms to deal with stress and a need for instant gratification and placing them in work environments that value money over people. The concept of shareholder supremacy was proposed in the late 1970’s but it has not adapted our current economic conditions, social evolution, or the Millennial. We are not in boom years anymore like we were in the 70’s and 80’s. The business model that valued the shareholder as a priority no longer works with our current environment. Corporate cultures that value numbers over people can no longer be standard business practice.
The solution? It is up to the companies to create an environment where employees can build self-confidence, learn coping mechanisms and trust in team members. It is these environments that will foster patience and nurture a sense of purpose and a sense of joy. Sinek concludes that Millennials must stand up and demand that companies lead in a new way that is more congruent with current social conditions by creating business environments that are conducive to success for today’s generation.