Let's say you've worked hard and made sacrifices. And now your efforts have paid off and you've become a leader in your organization.

If you're a Baby Boomer or even a member of Generation X, you probably think your leadership role requires you to become more polished. So you buy better shoes. Take presentation training. Memorize impressive amounts of data. Shape a consistent narrative.

And the next time you present to a group of Millennials, you're surprised how badly it goes. They fiddle with their phones. Stare into space. And then ask a whole bunch of impertinent questions.

To engage Millennials, you need a different role model: not a politician with perfect hair and a pressed suit, but . . . you guessed it, Bernie Sanders.

The Vermont senator is one of the biggest surprises of the Presidential campaign (just ask Hillary Clinton). Sanders is especially doing well among Democrats who happen to be Millennial because he seems . . . well, real, to them. In fact, according to UMass poll reported in The New York Times, 87 percent of likely New Hampshire voters ages 18 to 29 said they would vote for Mr. Sanders in the upcoming primary, compared with 13 percent for Clinton.

Want to learn from Bernie about engaging Millennials? Here are 5 leadership lessons:

  1. Be who you really are. Don't try to package yourself into something inauthentic. Sanders is a 74-year-old grandfather. He's not trying to pretend he's younger or hipper than he actually is.
  2. Embrace candor. As one 18-year-old college student said in The Times article, it seems like Sanders is "at the point in his life when he is really saying what he is thinking. With Hillary, sometimes you get this feeling that all of her sentences are owned by someone."
  3. Connect on a personal level. To trust leaders, people need to feel they understand how you think--and that you genuinely care about them.
  4. Don't take yourself too seriously. Sanders is not afraid to make fun of himself, and to laugh when the situation is silly.
  5. Go all in. Sanders knows this is his big chance, so he's giving it all he's got. Potential voters can sense his commitment, and they're responding with energy and enthusiasm.

Do you have what it takes to be a leader? Be more like Bernie. And keep it real.

 

Published on: Feb 8, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.