In centuries past leadership was earned by people as they aged, survived difficulties, gained wisdom, and expertise through years of experience, or often it was grasped by ambitious persons with a touch of ruthlessness. Throughout the history of humans, leaders who rose above the rank and file bestowed leadership positions on their progeny. Two or three generations after the founding of a dynasty, there was frequently trouble within. Evidently bringing up children in a privileged state was not ideal for turning them into good leaders.
The population in the United States was suspicious of the power passed down by the kings and nobility to their offspring. Single-minded ambition and hard work could also bring about a rise to power as easily as receiving it from the patriarch of a well-known and wealthy family. At least that is what Americans used to think, but that perception is fading. Perhaps because of the growing income disparity in the income and the establishment of a wealthy upper class passing on business leadership to their children.
When the Baby Boomer generation reached the age of employment, leadership training was sparse. A degree from college was considered adequate for those who wanted to move up in a company, but this advancement also required years of experience. Evidently the Millennial mindset is different. They know that a college degree is not worth as much as it used to be, but they are also eager for company-provided leadership training.
There is a shift to identifying high potential individual early and grooming their leadership skills. Many millennials feel that if their abilities have not been recognized after a few years they might as well pack up and move to another employer. Yet this threat really doesn’t have employers quaking in their boots. They verbally acknowledge the need to train millennials for leadership but do not take it seriously.  There are still enough members of Generation X (and Baby Boomers without enough funds for retirement) that will hang in there with the company. (Bringing back a retire person to work contract/part-time without benefits can actually save companies money.)
So why is the media flooded with the necessity for providing training for Millennials? It’s a new start-up business, and the way to start a business is to create a need. The purveyors of this training claim they know what makes millennials ticks, because the vast majority are Millennials. They want you to read their articles, buy their books, and buy their training. They insist there is a dire need for leadership training so that Millennials can fill the boots of retiring Baby Boomers.
But do these peddlers of the need for leadership training really know what it takes to mold a generation that is often accused of being entitled, with little loyalty to employers and high demands for feedback and work-life balance into leaders? Of course there is always a caveat offered that Millennials will lead in a new and different way. Usually with an emphasis on collaboration and technology. This will spreading out the leadership responsibility, ideally making room for more of the upcoming generation to be leaders, and lessen the need to live at the office to be successful.
But that brings up the question, does leadership need to be redesigned to suit the Millennial’s style, or should they be seeking to learn the skills required to lead in the future? And exactly what are these skills? That’s what we will dive into next.