I wrote this article in response to a journalist’s query regarding who will fill the leadership gap at companies. In particular, who will fill the gap from the Millennial generation given the “general focus” of Millennials:
Companies struggling to find candidates
I have worked at or with a wide range of companies with employees and leaders of all ages. I think that the 30% of companies struggling to find candidates (a minority of the companies, I must note) have this issue because they fail to develop candidates, and they do not look in the right places. I find that many companies do not take the time to internally develop their management into true leaders. Therefore, the middle managers are great at performing specific tasks, but are not adept at stepping out and stepping forward and leading their people.
Some managers can develop into leaders
Some, but not all, managers can be developed into leaders through mentoring, coaching and empowering. This is done when companies either have formal leadership development programs in place or when companies informally yet consistently empower their employees and encourage them to look outward for leadership assistance. In addition, many companies focus on traditional corporate sources for managers instead of at the political, entrepreneurial or social realms, which may offer suitable candidates for various positions, especially if provided with a means to learn the company’s culture (i.e., bring leaders into a core strategy or operations group or have a 6-month to one-year rotational program).
Millennials as leaders
Regarding Millennials, many seek flexibility and realize that there is more to life than work. Therefore, they may hear that senior management routinely works 80-90 hours per week and decide that these hours are not for them. However, many of these same Millennials will work those hours at a tech firm such as Google or Facebook that they feel really values them. Therefore, I generally believe it is the perception of their value, contribution and overall quality of life that determines whether or not Millennials pursue senior management positions. Companies must realize that what worked for those who are now in their 50s does not always work for those in their 20s and then must make changes accordingly.
Benefits of policy changes
All employees can benefit from changes in policies that really do show that the company appreciates and values its employees, and does not simply provide lip service to this. One final recommendation: just ask your employees why they are not stepping into leadership roles, what barriers exist, and what would encourage them to step up. I have often found the direct approach, which is actually quite simple, works best.