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TALLINN, EST: MAY 21-23, 2025

Millennials – the biggest catalyst for leadership change?

At this year’s Latitude59, LHV is presenting the track on Leadership. To get you all warmed up, here’s a little discussion started about the 4 things you perhaps didn’t yet know about Millennials and what they expect from leadership.

I’m personally always slightly critical if I read another article about Millennials and this and that. Like they’re some kind of a rare breed of unicorn expecting the world to magically fall at their feet along with companies and managers carefully crafted to fit their needs. That’s not the case. However, the Millennial generation is different than their predecessors, in ways you cannot ignore.

To avoid cliches and things you probably already know, I’m leaving out everything about flexible work and providing plenty of feedback to keep your employees (Millennial or not) happy. Because who’d work for someone who doesn’t provide that, right?

They are your job

What many leaders don’t realize, is that when you’re leading a company or a team your priority isn’t the subject matter you are an expert at, but it’s the people. Much too often people aren’t considered “real work” and real work happens in some other ambiguous physical sphere where you can put an equation mark between the input of work that goes and in the cold hard cash that you can then take out from the other end. And Millennial will demand that more than their predecessors that they be your full-time job, and everything else shall come after that.

Your effectiveness, your success at whatever you think you’re good at, what you’re an expert at, what you did before becoming a leader will take a backseat while providing servant leadership to people should come first. You will be expected to keep your team motivated and engaged, listen to their worries, actively help them grow and find opportunities for challenging themselves. The happiness and engagement levels of your team will become what your superiors should, and your Millenial team member definitely will judge you most for.

Live your values, don’t just preach them

Talking the talk is so much more difficult than walking the walk . Would you fire a person, that has maybe been with you for the past 10 years, is one of your top performers, but just isn’t that much of a nice person and constantly fails to respect even one of your company’s core values. Maybe they’re into spreading gossip, maybe they’re egos get the best of them, maybe they don’t get along with people or generally don’t have that right cultural fit? But they’re so good forsakenly good at what they do and they make you money.What will you do?

If you’re willing to make difficult decisions based on the conflict of values that might even as a consequence result in some short-term financial loss, the younger generation will notice and praise you for it. And whatever the values you think your company holds, will be communicated through real action. However, when you go on about the values of your team or company but fail to live them in the most critical aspects, the Millennial will call out your bullshit in no time and not give a damn about the values in the long run.

They don’t want your job or care about the corporate food chain

In all honesty, they might not want your jobs for any money in the world. Although more social and extroverted, Millennials as also quite individualistic, especially when it comes to creating and being in charge of their own career path. No 20-something will go work in the morning hoping he’ll become a manager in 5 years time. Or reach a new level on some kind of a hierarchical structure. Quite the opposite, they will try to avoid companies with multiple layers of management altogether. 5 years for them might as well be an eternity, in that time they may want to work for you, but also travel the world, live off-grid from a modified Volkswagen van, become Insta-famous for unboxing houseplants, start their own business and everything in between.

Dealing with other people problems and growth in a workplace as a manager might not be in the top of their 5-year bucket list. If they do stick around for to work in your team and contribute to the business, they will quite possibly at some point expect you to help them make professional shifts within the company based on what will help them grow or challenge themselves more. But that shift more often than not doesn’t have to mean “up the ladder”.

If they leave, it’s because of you

That’s the cold hard truth you have to be ready to swallow with the Millennial generation – people leave managers not companies. Them leaving doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, or a bad manager altogether, it’s just that you failed to keep them what the needed, perhaps even failed to understand what it is they needed in the first place. Perhaps your perceptions of work are different from that of a Millennials and maybe you thought you can fit a Millennial into some pre-existing mold.

Millennials get a lot of bad rep for job hopping being their new normal, but what many companies often don’t realize is that a reason for that is not that they simply get bored, but it’s because the willingness to leave kicks in the minute they feel like leadership doesn’t meet their standards. They have a short fuse and lots of other opportunities knocking on their door – a perfect recipe for a spontaneous “I quit”.

Combine the sheer number of Millennials entering the workforce every year with their willingness to leave you if you don’t meet their needs and expectations, and you’ve come to witness perhaps the biggest catalyst for leadership change we’ve ever seen.

Written by Ragne Maasel Employer Brand Manager at LHV

Learn more about Leadership track and Latitude59 agenda here.

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