What it Means to Have a Millennial as CEO

This blog post is part of the 2016 Next Top Credit Union Executive competition originally posted August 30, 2016.

Over the past several months I have had the privilege to work with several people who are in the millennial generation who are already CEOs, becoming CEOS, or aspiring to be CEOS. There is a distinctive energetic pulse with the millennial when we are discussing how it is being a CEO, developing Board–CEO relationships, leading a team that is older in age, and balancing life as a new CEO with a young family and community commitment. These CEOs’ deep commitment to doing things right is palpable and compelling. I certainly do not feel a sense of righteousness or entitlement from them; rather, what is present is a deeply felt sense that they are becoming a certain kind of leader.

My research says this: if you are a board member, a team member, or a strategic partner with a millennial CEO, you are in a situation with a strong value proposition. So pay attention, sit up straight, ask powerful questions, offer support, and be leadership champions with your CEO.

Millennials, as a generation, advocate for advancing the organization, the community, and global issues and will do so with innovative thinking and action, cohesion, collaboration, tolerance, and a high standard of excellence. Born between 1980 and the early 2000s, millennials experienced a number of nationally and globally transformative events during their leadership-formative years: 9/11, Enron, BP, the Great Recession, multiple systemic banking crises, war on multiple fronts, currency crises, sovereign debt crises, baby boomers retiring in thousands everyday, and now, a disruptive presidential election cycle. Some research indicates these crises created mistrust in millennials; I say they created a leadership opportunity.

Millennial

  • Do not promote social responsibility (SR) to advance the company brand; they advocate SR because it is the right thing to do because the community and world become a better place when SR is embodied in workplace values.
  • Consider products and services a waste of time if they don’t make a difference for the community.
  • Are not overly risky with other people’s money; they are pragmatic and will invest in today to ensure future relevance and sustainability.
  • Care about organizational and employee fitness and work to build a strong core of the organization, team, and self.
  • Expect collaboration, commitment, and completion; to be a member on their team, you are expected to fulfill on expectations and do so with passion.
  • Lead with purpose.
  • Have a standard of excellence that does not track the number of hours worked and rather will look at the economic and qualitative value of the employee.
  • Expect high-performing board members who are rigorous with strategic thinking, decisions, and continuous learning and who are committed to the organization through thought and action.
  • Add more value as a new CEO with onboarding especially after a long term sitting CEO.
  • Increase their immediate value as a CEO with boards that acknowledge a potential shift in their thinking and communication style is needed to best leverage the value of the millennial CEO.
  • Are intelligent and have cross-functional expertise.
  • Are educated with graduate degrees and pursue ongoing and continuous industry learning.
  • Are natural-born mentors and coaches.
  • Implement corporate social responsibility that is authentic and transparent.
  • Build and maintain trust.
  • Understand their personal reputation is entwined with the organization’s brand.
  • Are masters of a broad range of communication skills to deliver a range of messaging with increased complexity.

From my perspective, to choose a millennial as a CEO is a defining transformative moment!

Deedee Myers, Ph.D., MSC, PCC
DDJ Myers, Ltd.