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Reaching Millennials Through Servant Leadership

March 04, 2020 Matt Rocco

Though the servant leadership style came into existence several decades ago, the values this approach embraces are still applicable today. In fact, the majority of today’s team members likely view leadership by serving as an effective, approachable style.  More than one third of the American workforce is comprised of Millennials, and that percentage may rise to 50% by 2020. Many of the leadership skills organizations have long held as the ideal are now the likely the expectation of most of your team.

Immediacy

A genuine interest in your team members’ wellbeing is one aspect of servant leadership that Millennials look for in a leader. One way to communicate interest is being consistently available to them and willing to listen. When surveyed on what they consider hallmarks of success, 58% of Millennials factor in work-life balance, but they don’t tend to completely check out of one before engaging in the other. Instead, they want their leaders to understand them as whole people, supporting them in the pursuit of personal as well as professional goals.

Engagement

Another quality of a good leader is the ability to foster engagement among team members. Millennials don’t just want to do a job to get a paycheck. They want leaders to recognize their strengths, thus giving them the opportunity to do what they do best every day. One leadership quality that is often overlooked is the ability to outline job expectations clearly, but this is an important step in helping your team feel ownership in the work they’re doing. Millennials who don’t feel engaged are unlikely to be motivated to stick around for long. They thrive on going the extra mile, and servant leadership sets them up for success by modeling the goals to which they are expected to aspire.

Development

Professional development is a keystone quality of good leader tactics. While you want your team members to be fulfilled by the work they’re currently doing, you also want to encourage them to adopt a growth mindset. Many leaders, in an effort to encourage their team, will look for opportunities to praise any effort they make toward learning a new skill. Millennials, however, tend to value being recognized more for their accomplishments rather than just the steps they take in getting there. Servant leadership aids the growth process by providing the tools team members need to further their own leadership development. For example, Ernst & Young report that 74% of Millennials consider having a manager and coworkers who support their choice to work flexibly to pursue personal and professional goals to be an important factor of job satisfaction. Investing in the development of your team can enhance their performance and inspire innovations that make your organization stronger.

Collaboration

Your millennial team members may be skeptical of managers who try to use their institutional power to get their own way. One way to minimize the power struggles that your team is likely to find off-putting and unproductive is to foster a collaborative environment. Millennials often thrive in communal environments, so making decisions as a group is a good habit to adopt. They are more likely to have buy-in to a decision to which they contributed. Servant leadership involves having the humility to value the input of your team.

Communication

All team members benefit from consistent and informative communication, but different generations may have very different ideas about how that looks. While older generations may be more comfortable with face-to-face communication, most Millennials are digital natives. They have never known a world that doesn’t involve the opportunity for constant connection through email, social media and other forms of technology.

As a result, they tend to be highly competent with these methods and value the convenience they add to communication with the team. They also tend to be acutely aware of the need for downtime when they aren’t available online and are thus valuable sources of information on how to make digital communication more efficient and effective

While servant leadership is not a new management style, it can be quite effective with your millennial team members. It breaks down the power hierarchy that puts up walls between managers and their teams, allowing for better communication and more consistent engagement across the board. The more flexible you can be with your team, the better input you are going to get when you are trying to make new decisions.

Does your organization strive to reach the maximum of Generation Y?

Be a true servant leader and make a remarkable difference in the lives of the people you touch every day. With servant leadership, you can go beyond just driving their professional satisfaction.  Explore my blog on Etech, where I have discussed how practicing this great leadership style at the organizational level can help improve your people’s personal lives too.