How Are You Going to Change Leadership?

How Are You Going to Change Leadership?


The term has been in use in business and academic circles for the last decade. And a good deal has been written, debated and discussed about the next generation.

If you were born between 1980 and 2000, you are part of a demographic that shares a number of interesting traits. Traits, it is argued, that clearly distinguish you from all of your predecessors.

You are, for a start, a generation of digital natives.

You tend towards idealism. Your need for feedback is often confused with a sense of entitlement. You choose teamwork over hierarchy. Your loyalty to the environment and to society in general is as great as (if not greater that) your loyalty to your employer.

For you, giving back is as paramount as driving the bottom line.

Everyone is talking about your generation.

And a lot of the talk is about the challenges that come with managing you in the workplace.

But as we head into the third decade of the 21st century, perhaps a more relevant question is: what kind of leaders are your generation going to be?

And how are you going to shape the future of management?


“Millennials are maturing. And as they start to rise through the ranks of leadership, they are going to face a number of challenges that are quite unique to their generation, “ says Professor Dirk van Dierendonck of Rotterdam School of Management.

“Interpersonal communication, whether it’s with your board or your leadership team, is a critical skill for any CEO or GM.”

Unlike Gen X or the Baby Boomers, Millennials are a device-oriented generation, says van Dierendonck. “They’ve grown up with screens and social media platforms that limit face-to-face communication, and it’s an issue.”

Where previous generations have had to develop and hone skills in public speaking, negotiating, body language – talking and relating to actual people – Millennials, says van Dierendonck, are a generation more likely to use devices that reduce the need for physical social interaction.

Millennials are also more inclined to avoid confrontation.

“What we see is that Millennials are more conflict-averse that their predecessors. As they rise up through the ranks, the leadership demands are such that they have to interact with superiors and newer employees. Conflict management is a fundamental part of leadership and the millennial generation has a harder time negotiating difficult discussions than their predecessors.”

…And Opportunities

But whatever the challenges, as Millennials, you are also uniquely placed to overcome them.

“Upcoming leaders have more resources than ever before at their disposal, but that means understanding when and how to apply them,” says Brandon Kirby, Director of MBA admissions at RSM.

Natural “problem solvers,” your generation is also adept at deploying a variety of solutions to address challenges.

“What we see in each new cohort is a generation that is not only seeking out the training and development opportunities that the MBA affords, but proactively looking for answers to problems and using creativity, teamwork and innovation to challenge existing models and find new approaches.”

Millennials have a more intuitive grasp of the complexities and interconnections that characterise our evolving, global economy, says Kirby.

More at home with change and volatility than previous generations, emerging leaders will find it easier, he believes, to “tack into, or navigate, the winds of change.”

“Our MBA students have a native flexibility and a capacity to adapt that sets them apart. There’s a quality of agility in thinking and in execution that suggests that they will be well prepared to navigate as future business leaders.”

Agile, says Kirby, but also grounded by a set of core values. And a principal value is a people-first approach – one that he and van Dierendonck believe will significantly change the future of management.

“This is a generation that will put people at the centre,” says Dierendonck.

“I think that in a future with Millennials in charge, we will see significant changes in how we measure things like productivity. So-called “presenteeism” – where employers put a high value on physical presence – I think this will give way to project-based performance reviews, with annual reviews. I think we will see the rather static checks and balances of our current culture replaced by on-going feedback that is people-centred – and ultimately more people-empowering.”

Kirby agrees. “Millennials are much more about relationships, and I think it’s likely that in the future we will see professional relationships extend beyond the workplace, as work-life balance changes and boundaries blur.”

“I believe that as bosses, Millennials are likely to be more supportive, more empowering – looking to employees to enrich problem-solving, and giving them greater opportunities to grow and develop.”

The future of management is in the hands of Millennials.

As problem-solvers, innovators and challengers of the status quo, you’re challenged with deciding the course that leadership in the future will take.

A good first step, says Kirby, is to build a foundation of core understanding and invest in the insight and capabilities that drive interpersonal communication and strategic decision-making.

“We’re seeing more people from every walk of life than ever before equipping themselves for leadership. The MBA programme gives them a chance to fast-track the knowledge and skills that will differentiate them and help them achieve their career goals, while preparing them for a life-long career at the forefront of business.”

If you’re thinking about advancing your career with an MBA, why not visit our MBA pages and discover the benefits and career services that will help you realise your goals.

Our team of experts is also on hand at all times to review your CV, and discuss the best options available to you.