Many headlines seem to focus on the idea that millennials are not poised to lead. We are incompetent, shiftless and noncommittal. We show up late. We act entitled. We demand more than we earn.
It’s been six months since I released my book, The Original Millennial: Lessons in Leadership for the Millennial Generation. The reception has been fantastic, though not without questions.
“So is the book only for millennials?”
“So are you saying only millennials can be ‘original’?”
“What about Gen X? And the Baby Boomers? You left us out?”
No, no and no.
While millennials have a series of subgroups divided by the factors of age and socioeconomic background, originality is not a concept that refers to demographics as descriptors for millennials. It’s true that the entrepreneurial members of the older-millennial subset are altogether reinventing the planet and the younger subset is revitalizing organizations with an intrapraneurial excitement that is reinventing the workforce.
We understand why there is a great deal of variation from one individual millennial to another, more than within any other generational cohort, when we understand who our parents are. The differences between baby boomer and Gen X-er parents are the most critical reason millennials are so diversely defined yet grossly misunderstood.
A 33-year old millennial remembers using dial-up internet access to log on to the first version of Facebook, while a 23-year old millennial has likely never used Facebook without a high speed mobile or Wi-Fi connection. Those are major moments in the social development of millennials that are not to be ignored. However, the term “original” in this book will not be used to separate millennials by younger and older subsets.
The millennial generation continues to have a major influence on almost every aspect of our lives, including how we communicate and use technology. Millennials have affected changes in parenting practices, educational and career choices and sparked shifts in homeownership and family life. These developments have inspired much speculation about how this generation will fare later in life, and whether these trends are temporary or permanent (TCEA, 2014).
The driving force behind the potential greatness within the millennial generation is originality. We got here with so much originality that we were ready to take on a world that wasn’t making room for us.
We get distracted because we switch devices 27 times an hour. It may look like we don’t know where we’re going with our eyes glued to the screen and our fingers scrolling down the side. But we keep original ideas flowing from the sources found in the platforms we surf.
We thrive on original experiences and relationships. We are cautious and loyal. We often think the media are biased and can quickly perceive fakeness in human interaction.
We must have original conversations that happen in a meaningful, sincere way. We back brands. It gives us a sense of ownership and makes us feel like we contribute to the growth and prominence of those businesses.
We may look up to Mark Zuckerberg, Jay-Z and Steve Jobs for their originality, but our favorite mentors and models for inspiration are our fellow millennials.
Why is this? Because originality can sometimes be at odds with the source. The best parts of original millennials are found in the choice to change and evolve. The original qualities of past generations use commonly understood behavior patterns, which make them far easier to define, whereas original millennials have the ability to defy category.
For the millennial generation, originality is the most important trait because it positions how we think, feel, work and lead. The power of originality becomes most valuable when used in the pursuit of solutions. Millennials always look for ways to make things greater, bigger, better, stronger and more practical.
Across society, there’s enough division between cultural groups including generations – so much so that our thoughts take us instantly to a detection of bias, which is great in order for us acknowledge if and how bias exists.
Calling a millennial “original” not about pointing out our intergenerational differences. It’s about uplifting a generation by harnessing the original qualities we possess. The distinction of original is applied to the approach millennials bring to life; how we marry vision and values; how we merge creativity with cause and how we make real challenges look remarkably cool. Originality is the prime possession that makes the difference.
Read the book for yourself and you be the judge. What makes a millennial “original?”
*This post includes an excerpt from The Original Millennial: Lessons in Leadership for the Millennial Generation.*