In his book, The Myth of Leadership: Creating Leaderless Organizations, Jeffrey
Nielsen makes the case for the end of leadership as we commonly recognize it and for the creation of peer-based, leaderless organizations. He discusses leadership as a myth and states that it’s an ideology society has created that justifies the significance we place on the concept of anointed management and control.

Being leaderless implies pandemonium and organizational anarchy, and that’s not something I think millennials endorse, but there’s reason to wanting to redefine leadership.

Millennial leaders motivate by enabling others to be leaders. This is different from previous generations who seek control and power because those holding the position before them had control and power. Members of Gen Y know the strengths of those they lead and seek to make use of those skills to develop the individual and team. A Gen Y leader delegates to people to work together to reach their goals because collaboration is thriving and use of leaders is being questioned.

According to several news sources, the revolution in Egypt this past February was successful because it had no leaders, only coordinators of bottom-up energy.

The Internet generation — the digital natives who took to Cairo’s streets — had a different conception of leadership. They didn’t see the world in terms of atomized actors requiring leaders to represent them and systematize cooperation, but rather as a vast network of interconnected fighters.

Now in Egypt, young people are continuing to step up to the challenge of creating a new leadership platform and forming a viable coalition with new initiatives such as the Youth Revolution Coalition and the Tahrir Council. These groups represent youth activists and are aiming to field parliamentary candidates who are younger than 40.

Generation Y are autonomous, seek control over their work, are ready to be more accountable and are looking to make an impact on the bottom line – all undoubtedly leadership qualities. Our leadership style seeks relationship building and collaboration, but it’s still leadership. The traditional image of a leader to a millennial is of an individual who sits in his or her prestigious office and leads by giving orders to various team members instead of interacting with the team and working together on different moves within the company. Things are going to change as Gen Y become leaders – we’re team oriented. We respect higher management, but we believe there’s more to leadership than vocalizing commands.

Some companies are already giving Gen Y what they like, and they’re receiving recognition in return. Disney offers internships through its Disney College Program for college students to get young leaders committed to the company before they graduate. The program advertises allowing participants to have the opportunity to develop transferable skills, including guest service, problem solving, service recovery, effective communication, teamwork, leadership, attention to detail, time management, personal empowerment, self-confidence, responsibility and cultural sensitivity. The organization is built on a collaborative foundation and the sense of camaraderie makes Disney attractive for Gen Y because it breeds a familiar sense of teamwork. In 2006, Disney was categorized as the best place for young graduates to launch their careers.

Forward thinking companies are capitalizing on Gen Y talent by building a multi-generational workplace that inspires and coaches the leaders of tomorrow. They’re recognizing Gen Y’s leadership characteristics and continually developing them.

According to the report Class of 2011: Insight from the emerging workforce, of the 8,000 college graduates-to-be surveyed, 88 percent plan to apply directly to the company they wish to work for; 55 percent believe that career advancement opportunities are more important than salary when looking for work; and 64 percent plan to stay with their first employer for two to five years.

Given that a majority of the workforce belongs to the younger generation, leadership training will naturally have to assume greater significance as more millennials enter the workspace. These are the future leaders of your organization. Are you making yourself one of the organization’s they’re seeking to apply to? Do you think they’re ready to join the leadership pipeline? What are you doing to prepare them?

Ladan Nikravan

Ladan Nikravan

Ladan Nikravan is a senior editor of Chief Learning Officer magazine. She is from Chicago and graduated from the University of Missouri School Of Journalism, where she majored in magazine journalism. Prior to joining MediaTec, Ladan worked as a reporter for the Columbia Missourian newspaper, Vox magazine, Chicago Home Improvement magazine and American Builders Quarterly. Although a writer at heart, she has dipped her toes into most facets of the publishing world: feature writing, hard news and column writing; freelancing; copy editing; page design; Web design and some photography. She can be reached at
Ladan Nikravan

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