By A.J. MacQuarrie
Please don’t roll your eyes because yes, I’m going to talk about millennials for a moment here. I know, I know, you are sick and tired of hearing about us. But I want to talk specifically about millennial leadership. What does that even mean? It sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it, because c’mon – since when did millennials become known for their leadership skills?
We are, after all, the generation who is most known for inventing the Selfie – a proclamation of self-centeredness that screams deep psychological issues. How can a me-me-me generation be leaders in an ever-changing business landscape that requires you to be focused on everything other than yourself?
Well… buried deep in every selfie ever taken by a millennial is something I like to call dormant potentialities for greatness – because I believe, if channeled in the right direction (a self-chosen one), millennials can make great leaders in every area of business, particularly entrepreneurship.
If we look back over the last decade or two, the face of business ownership has completely changed. In the past, if you wanted to start a business, you’d have to raise a significant amount of money, find a location, and perhaps go beating on doors to sell your product. The mentality was “work hard to earn your keep.”
With the advent of the Internet, the face of business has completely transformed and anyone with an idea, some tech-know-how, and a small bankroll can start a business with a few swipes on a screen.
Point blank – the traditional ways of doing business are dying and whether you like it or not, millennials are taking over and will be a force to be reckoned with. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that there are a lot of barriers we must break down to get the acknowledgement we deserve (self-entitlement? Maybe.).
I’m not denying the labels society has thrust upon us are the most flattering for a generation, but I must say that we were born into a world not ready to embrace the generation they created.
We were born to a generation of parents who wanted nothing more than to protect their children and give them a life they themselves did not have. That doesn’t mean that we were raised to be entitled, lazy, phone drones, and unrealistic job hoppers…
That simply means that we were raised to think differently, do things differently, and to be different – and believe that we can accomplish anything we set our minds to.
That’s the gift of a millennial. And that’s the kind of leadership our world needs… If we can just get past how the world sees us and embrace our gifts and talents. We were born to create a better way to do business and I believe we’re living into a future that is being built by millennials… right now.
We get a lot of slack for being the generation that has had practically everything done for us; but the reality is, the labels placed on millennials are viewed through the lens of an old and nearly broken paradigm a.k.a the “traditional way of doing things”. If we were to look at those labels through the lens of, let’s say a millennial paradigm, then we can flip-the-script on the societal construct that diminishes our value in the marketplace, because let’s face it, we’re willing to do the work albeit in a different way.
This clouded lens from which society views millennials makes it very hard for those of us who know deep down inside of us lies a dormant potential waiting to be unleashed. When we’re constantly fighting the bombarding messages that we’re lazy, entitled, unrealistic, and soft spineless pansies, we tend to shirk our own potential and let the harbored resentment toward society get the best of us.
And no matter how hard we try, we’re fighting against a force that is relentless in its ability to crush us. Why? Because society at large shows up as the faces of our friends, family, and co-workers and when you have to face that force on a daily basis, it becomes a tireless and defeating way to live.
So, what can we do to tip the scales in our favor?
The answer lies in something we’ve covered already in this book: Reframing.
I’m going to break down and reframe the most common labels that society pushes on us so that we can go forth with a convicted heart, unleash our dormant potential, and set the world on fire!
Fuck Labels – Let’s Peel Them Bitches Off…And stick ‘em where they belong – in the trash, along with all of your disempowering and limiting beliefs!
These days millennials are labeled a lot of things that aren’t so flattering. These labels have been repeated so many times in so many ways that it has permeated through the collective consciousness and has tainted an entire generation’s self-image. These generalizations can wreak havoc on one’s motivation, inspiration, and ability to gain traction in one’s life IF we give power to them. Let’s look at some of the labels millennials are given and view them from a new paradigm.
LAZY – We grew up in a world that thrives on convenience and it was probably a millennial who coined the term “Life Hack”. In the past, going to “work” for a lot of people meant going to a factory and performing some sort of manual labor and the collective sentiment in those days was that you had to “work hard” to earn your keep. “Working hard” literally meant to physically exert your body for lengthy periods of time making the owner very rich in the process.
Let’s be real, in those days, working hard in a factory was an “honorable” way to earn a living or so the elite class had us all thinking that. Life was hard back then; everything required physical exertion for many folks. As technology evolved, industries evolved and so did our way of thinking about work. As technologies and industries evolved, the people who adapted to the changes and embraced forward progress created new paradigms for themselves and how they went about earning a living. Technological advances created new opportunities for us and as a generation raised in modern conveniences and in a world run by technology, the traditional way of working no longer exists for most of us.
We’re a generation that is the epitome of working smart, not hard. We are a generation who understands the true meaning of leveraging our time and resources rather than “putting in the hours” all by ourselves. This is true now more than ever in the post-COVID world that we’re living in. We believe in collaboration and that our value isn’t in the “hourly wage” mentality but is determined by the value we create with our services and/or products. We’re not lazy, we’re about leverage; we believe we can earn more with less work and you must work smart to accomplish this.
ENTITLED – I don’t know about you but I’m highly aware that my parents worked really hard to give me a life they never had growing up. My parents were my biggest cheerleaders and rarely ever told me I shouldn’t or couldn’t do something I wanted to do for fear that I would fail. Millennial parents are blamed for creating a generation of young adults who permit themselves to aspire for greatness; however, we live in a world that rewards said greatness so long as it comes with a struggle.
We were raised to believe in ourselves and even though many of us were given participation trophies just for showing up, it built a sense of confidence, optimism, a willingness to try unlikely things, and gave us an unshakeable belief that we’re good enough to make things happen. We’re not entitled, we were groomed to have a positive mindset and believe that no matter where we start, we can always strive for better – that the only competition we have is with ourselves. We believe we can accomplish anything we set our minds to and sometimes we want it sooner rather than later – that doesn’t make us entitled, it makes us impatient. (Don’t blame us for that… our entire world thrives on instant gratification. We. Can’t. Help. It.)
PHONE DRONES – Can you really blame us for this one? When our entire existence has been predicated on having a piece of technology in our face 24 hours a day, it’s hardly fair that we are getting a bad rap for utilizing the very thing that defines our generation: technology. Everything in our world lives in data, MBs, and pixels – we love and embrace and adapt to new technologies fairly quickly and it is this fact that will propel millennials into the future (and society as a whole- you’re welcome!).
We are the ones carrying our technological advances, along with the evolution of our species, and our collective knowledge into the future. WE ARE THE FUTURE and our ability to adapt alongside technological advances will undoubtedly increase our value to the marketplace.
JOB HOPPERS – Given that most millennials became of working age in the middle of a long, brutal recession, it was a challenging time to find jobs with companies that were investing in their employees. Going from job to job in a “Gig-Economy” creates a feeling of insecurity and dissatisfaction with the job market along with an overwhelming sense that we aren’t making an impact in our roles. That overwhelming feeling of dissatisfaction and wanting to make a big impact in our world culminates into a trial by fire mentality. This is good for entrepreneurship. This grooms you to see things from a distinct perspective: from within (inside) an already established organization. This view lends to your experience and will help you gain insight on how to run a business.
As a millennial entrepreneur, I hate it when I hear people use these labels to bash us as if we don’t have anything of value to offer the marketplace and the world of business. I use these labels to reframe my own experience and it keeps the fire burning inside of me to keep building and growing and making a difference in the world. Context counts and if we can create an empowering context around what society views millennials as, then it will make our journeys much more enjoyable. In the bigger scheme of things, if you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur, nothing will stop you from achieving your greatness – not even stupid labels that are meant to keep the mediocre in their mediocrity.
You can’t stop greatness, but you sure as hell can stop mediocrity.
Millennial leadership – redefined. Some people possess the natural gift of leadership while others work to cultivate the many qualities of great leaders. Leadership is a relative thing, but in today’s world, millennials will be shaping the future of business and it’s happening right now.
What society deems our weaknesses as a group, as individuals we can reframe those labels and use them to empower us along our journey into entrepreneurship. We can use their words against them and forge ahead into a future created by our very own vision of who we are and what kind of life we want to create for ourselves.
Traditional ways of doing business have evolved and we (millennials) are at the forefront of a new horizon. We are being asked to step up and into our best and highest selves, not only to create a life that works for us, but a world that works for everyone. We have a social responsibility and duty to create businesses that will help future generations thrive on this planet.
We need a paradigm shift in the way we lead our lives and our businesses and that starts from the inside out. At the heart of millennial leadership is social responsibility and that’s whether you call yourself an entrepreneur or not. You don’t need to be in business to have a major impact on the world; it just so happens that entrepreneurship is the most satisfying way to make a difference.
If we start with a social responsibility to do good things with our business, I genuinely believe everything else will fall into place. We must believe in our ability to make the world a better place and give ourselves a chance to live into that future. Leadership qualities can be learned, but to fully integrate and implement those qualities takes a bold step and commitment to live and operate at a higher standard and do so consciously, conscientiously, and with integrity.
Entrepreneurship requires leadership, and without it, you won’t go very far.
The world needs you. Do you have what it takes?