Leadership Lessons for Gen Y

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What is the essence of leadership? And what is crucial in leadership development for young professionals?

These were the questions to a group of ‘medior and senior’ leaders and entrepeneurs in the Arnhem-region (in The Netherlands), part of the @bronvoorleiders community. This community meets regularly to connect, share personal experiences and learn from each other. I was happy to be part of one of their recent meetings, during which I told them about the leadership game Young Leaders Academy is developing. I was curious to hear their views, their ‘tips and trics’ for young professionals.

In the first round, we held a dialogue about the essence of leadership. Every perspective shared by the participants contained one or more valuable lessons, of course coloured by own past experiences. In my notebook, I wrote down some of them:

- As a leader, be happy with resistance, as it shapes you to be solutions focused, always in search for what is possible
- As a leader, it’s about knowing what drives people around you, so that you can set a direction and inspire them to join because of their drives, not because of yours
- It starts with personal leadership, knowing only you are responsible for your actions, developing a muscle of self-confidence – but never forget that listening to others is essential
- The essence of leadership is gaining and giving trust, taking and expecting responsibility
- Leadership is a verb, even better, three verbs: to listen, to inspire, to serve. Getting people into excellence, beyond fear or ‘spreadsheet-management’
- It is about putting a vision into practice, well-grounded and authentic pursue of self-interest

Then, in the second part, they were asked to think about leadership development for young professionals, and – personal branding 2.0 – and then to pitch their core idea for a development program to the group.

Again, every idea was useful. The members of this community are involved and engaged in developing other leaders in their organziations – that’s a leader’s job, isn’t it – so they had some ready-to-roll best practices.

Most of the pitches emphasized the important role of connecting with other people for personal development: getting feedback, being mentored or coached by experienced colleagues, involving the team in goal setting, asking for help. Everybody mentioned the basic step of getting to know yourself before you lead others, and they meant, getting to know yourself really - who you are, with positive and ‘dark’ sides, embracing yourself just as you are.

Making mistakes is ‘officially allowed’ since then (good to know!), even better: mistakes don’t exist. “Just do it”, grab any chance, stand up, speak up – but be sure your values act as your source of decision making.¬†Another great tip was to use ‘your head, heart and hands’ and be aware of what is emerginig around you.

A last beautifully practical advice: know your heroes and follow their traits. There’s enough people around you who show leadership, who are nice to engage with, who are making a difference. Be one of them, and be your best any moment.

The session finished with an assignment, typical for groups of Gen Yers, but less common for the meeting participants: shoot a video of 3 minutes with your message for young professionals. Interesting group dynamics and lots of different ideas followed, in the end, taking more than three times the amount of time they originally got (to put up the pressure), the group made a beautifully simple video – with a great message. It is in Dutch, but I trust you get it.. Enjoy it here..

Crucial leadership lessons for Gen Y, for sure. If you are a young professional, I have one advice for you: seek a senior manager in your organization and ask for mentoring. There’s lots of wisdom available and ready to be shared. The best is in the mix of generations, don’t you think?


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