A 2014 leadership study I read about recently gave me pause. The results concerned me since I write so frequently about how leadership is the reason companies succeed or fail.

The research found that 85 percent of global companies report an urgent need to develop employees with leadership potential. That's not the bad news.

By 2020, there will be over 86 million Millennials, representing nearly 40 percent of the workforce. But only 40 percent of companies believe their current pool of high-potentials can meet their future business needs, and just 21 percent indicated they are happy with the bench strength of their high-potential leaders.

The gap between experience of current leaders and that of future leaders is the size of the Grand Canyon. Is this a wake-up call for your company?

I was debating where to go with the rest of this article in light of those dismal figures. So here's what I'm going to do.

Millennials have already invaded the workforce and became the largest working demographic in 2015. They not only need strong leaders to direct them, but they will themselves increasingly compete for leadership roles that will direct companies by 2020 and beyond, as Boomers retire.

I'm going to give my readers a solution to address the Millennial onslaught that is coming by pointing you to 5 key leadership behaviors that are known for sustaining great teams and organizations.

Look for them in the leaders you want to manage your Millennials. And look for them as traits you want to identify and develop in the Millennial leaders that will lead your company.

1. They have superb and uncanny listening skills.

Effective communication isn't just about talking; leaders who master the art of listening authentically listen intuitively to the other person's story, asking questions, and searching conversations for depth, meaning and understanding with the other person's needs in mind. By putting the focus on others, these leaders will give you competitive advantage.

2. They give trust to others.

In his phenomenal book The Speed Of Trust, Stephen M.R. Covey says that a team with high trust will produce results faster and at lower cost. But should you first earn the trust of your people? Surprisingly, no. It has been found that, in healthy organizations, leaders are willing to give trust to their followers first, and they give it as a gift even before it's earned. This kind of uninhibited trust is one of the ways that research is saying will keep your people from leaving you.

3. They coach others.

Cheryl Bachelder, CEO of Popeye's Louisiana Kitchen, talks about the power of coaching in her book, Dare to Serve: How to Drive Superior Results by Serving Others. Coaching is a leadership competency, Bachelder says, that they want to be best in class about. She develops her leaders to be coaches. People, especially Millennials, want to gravitate to leaders who will coach them to success.

4. They provide opportunities for learning and growth.

What you'll find in most healthy organizations is a high commitment to growing their employees. There's strong partnership between top leadership, immediate managers, training and human resources to work together to identify their employees' gifts, talents, and strengths for the best job fit so that they can reach their potential. These organizations champion a "learning spirit," sending a clear message that "growing our people is one of our highest priorities."

5. They develop strong personal relationships.

This means they spend time with their people, and not for their own personal gain. This is about investing time with their most valued employees to learn who they really are. But don't think this is about getting together over a Latte to share hobby stories. The focus should be to deepen relatedness, share information, show that you care, and discuss intentions openly. The phrase "I must know you to grow you" rings true here (borrowing from Cheryl Bachelder). You must choose leaders who are wired to be curious about their followers -- to know their strengths and gifts, where their passions are, and how to apply them.

Parting thoughts.

If you have high-potentials who will make exceptional leaders, they may not know it themselves, so don't thwart their development! Help them become more self-aware of their unique skills, and bring out their strengths and talents so they can accelerate their own development.

Published on: Nov 21, 2016
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