Millennials Want to Be the Boss

NEW YORK ( MainStreet) — Despite being laid off as a 22-year-old when the financial crisis hit, Matt Brunmeier has worked his way into a good place as a software developer for Servicepower in Southern California.

The now 29-year-old Brunmeier, however, hopes more still lies ahead.

“I don't want to be embroiled in the gritty details of software development day in and day out," he said. "I want to personally contribute to the strategic direction of the platforms I work with. I want to be a 'big picture' guy.”

Brunmeier is not alone when it comes to being a Millennial wanting more. While Gen X-ers have been shown to have a lukewarm relationship with leadership positions, a recent survey shows more than nine out of ten Millennials aspire to be a leader — including 52% of women.

“Millennials embody the shift in today’s workplace,” said Sean Graber, CEO of leadership training firm Virtuali, which conducted the study along with WorkplaceTrends.com. “They are motivated by a desire to transform themselves, their colleagues, and the world around them. This study confirms that Millennials respond and aspire to this type of transformational leadership.”

What may be most curious, however, is that it is not money or power that makes them crave leadership.


In fact, more than 40% of Millennials said "empowering others" was their biggest motivator to be a leader. As for skills to lead, more than half of Millennials said they possess traits — like good communication and the ability to build relationships — to be a great leader.

“It’s easy to understand why Millennials and Generation X-ers have different opinions about leadership, because they were exposed to dramatically different family experiences,” said Timothy Munyon, an assistant professor of management at the University of Tennessee.

Munyon said many in Generation X often grew up in families where both Baby Boomer parents worked, were ambitious and, as a result, were often gone from the home. This negative experience has solidified a strong desire in Generation X not to trade off family quality of life for work, hence their reluctance to “move up the chain.”

“Ironically, Millennials — often children of Generation X-ers — have had better childhood experiences as a result,” Munyon said. “Raised in more developmental family systems, these individuals have much more favorable opinions about aspirant leadership because they haven’t experienced the work-life costs of leadership.”

Emmanuel Ley, a 30-year-old and already the co-founder and CFO of Fashion Stork Inc. in Vista, Calif., agrees.

“Contrary to parents of Generation X — who taught their children 'early bird gets the worm,’ 'find a job' and 'put in hours' — I believe parents of Millennials taught their children the value of education and self-confidence when getting a career,” Ley said.

“I personally see more value in working on my strengths, and targeting your career towards your passions,” Ley added. “I believe this speaks to the Millennials. I believe Generation X has a different mind-set; more of a ‘get-in anywhere and work your way up.’”

While Millennials are willing to step up, they also need to take a balanced approach, warned said Lily Kelly-Radford, a psychologist and executive leadership coach.

She said while Millennials may be willing to take on leadership roles, that does not necessarily equate to having the skills to step up. So there will be a balancing act between willingness and desire to make a better workplace.

“Millennials are genuinely interested in making an empowered workplace because they have enjoyed that experience themselves and they have a perception of what that means,” Kelly-Radford said. “And here is a key challenge — many Millennials are not as steeped in working in situations where their desires have to be secondary. This requires patience.”

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