Agile, the hypersonic new buzz word, has made its appearance in the software development, project and program management protocol, and – Leadership! Accordingly, to Webster’s Online Dictionary, agile or agility, is describes as ones’ ability to move with quick and easy grace and one who can contain a resourceful and adaptable character. Therefore, Agile Leadership is designed to allow people to look at situations from a different perspective and react to them with flexibility. Flexibility is the main ingredient to agile leadership because it allows the leader and team members to be adaptable to change, especially if there is a large number of changes within an organization. Organizations that apply agile leadership tend to focus on goal setting, challenges that drive results, feedback, and being open to new ideas.
I like to reference agile leadership to parenting and after raising four daughters by military parents who expected their children to be organizational ready, planning to prevent obstacles, take simplified steps to reach success and communicate effectively when having a conversation, was only met with some resistance and a few slammed doors. I kept thinking why these teenagers are so annoyed with their parents- I mean, I had their life planned out and if they just followed the rule book everything would be perfect- right? After grad school, I decided to take on a journey to complete a Doctoral in Business Administration and my research covers topics such as agile leadership and the millennial generation. All four of our daughters are a millennial, and I thought it would be good to research them to better understand the expectations of this generation because they are the next generation of leaders.
My first comment about millennials is they are extremely technical savvy and it won’t be long before I ask my five-year-old grandson to show me how to do something on the computer and those of you that are a baby boomer and Generation Xer, you know what I am talking about. It is not that we do not love the newest gadgets and technology, we are just not as agile as the millennial generation to adapt to the constant technology changes.
One of the greatest books I have read recently is Millennials Matter by Danita Bye and one of her research comments is that the Millennials expect leaders to lead but they want some degree of freedom. One positive characteristic of a millennial is they are very socially connected, and they can multi-task better than any other generations. An example, when my daughter was a teenager, I remember question her time chatting on AOL or Myspace (Yes- I am that old) about her online social time and homework completion. Little did I know she was chatting with a classmate on how to do an assignment. Millennials also require feedback and although it can come across as needy, I had to stop and realize that when my girls were teenagers we had those “occasional family meetings” and we were not shy to provide positive and negative feedback. Yes, we wanted to provide them with feedback that they can use to be successful later in life. Their need for constant feedback was embodied in the core construct as a human being.
One of the other cool characteristics about millennials is they are not willing to sacrifice their personal life to advance their career. They like to play hard, work hard, and prefer a company that supports a work-life balance. From my personal experience, I am pretty sure I am a pseudo millennial because I enjoy a balance as well. Millennials also love collaboration, building friendships, and authenticity- meaning they want to be apart of the team, value relationships and respect genuine feedback. Millennials like to know if they have an opportunity to advance in their career and prefer to work with a company that supports diversity. As I write this, I am thinking maybe I was born in the wrong generation because I value the same things.
There are also the typical generational complaints about millennials that they are lazy, demanding and impatient, need constant feedback, no respect for elders or authority, fear adulthood and parents are too soft. But as I watch my four little millennials roam in their adult lives, I can honestly say they are not lazy, as it was a required for them to work and go to school- not an option. They have an immense amount of respect toward adults, well they did not get a chance due to the military construct, however, its something they now value in the workplace. Yes, we were probably a bit soft as parents, but doesn’t every parent try to do a better job at parenting than their parents did?
As a Generation Xer writing this story, I have a baby boomer husband with four successful millennials that keep the pendulum moving back and forth. Although we would love for them to have served in the military as we did, parents did, they all chose a different path. We have a daughter who is a nurse, one in nursing school, one who is the mother to our three grands and the other is doing well in the video game industry. I love it when someone says something negative about a millennial, I just say- You’re welcome! I love my millennials and working with them is very innovative as it keeps this old brain relevant! With Agile Leadership being about flexibility, I leave you with my favorite quote that my girls have probably heard a million times: If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always gotten. ~Unknown~