“What makes a good leader?” It’s a question my ethics professor back in grad school asked during a lecture. Eager students threw their hands in the air to answer the question, sure that they knew the right answer. Charisma. Intelligence. Strength. Wisdom.
The right answer is much simpler. To be a leader, you must have followers. It’s as simple as that. But the reasons people follow leaders vary depending on the unique situation in which they’re looking to be led.
Right now, there’s a changing of the guard happening across the country where leaders – mostly of the Boomer generation – are retiring and younger Millennials are stepping in. According to a Pew Research Center study, Millennials surpassed Gen Xers and Boomers as the largest generation in the U.S. labor force back in 2015. Vaguely defined as people reaching young adulthood in the early 21st century and, more specifically, as being born between the years 1980 to 2000, many Millennials have already found themselves in management and executive positions.
For warehouses and those within the supply chain, what does it mean that Millennials are now leaders? It means that, from a leadership and operations perspective, warehouses are evolving.
Follow the leader
Traditionally in business, leaders are followed by others because they are trusted to improve or protect the others’ and organizations’ well-being. Business leaders aren’t necessarily able to do everything better than anybody else. They’re seasoned, but not necessarily the most experienced. Still, they have followers because their competency is trusted to protect the well-being of all.
However, Millennials choose to follow for a different reason. Millennials are digital natives, founders of modern day social media. Whether on Instagram, Twitter or Snapchat, they connect with and “follow” people and brands to which they can relate. In a business setting, this means that Millennial leaders feel the need to be relatable to employees rather than providing the direction, truth, predictability and grit that followers need.
Imagine that you’re giving poor performance and your manager tells you “great job” anyway. Or worse yet, you’re crushing it while your co-worker is having one of those bad days and your manager gives both of you equal praise. Either way, the manager has undermined the trust of his or her followers.
This tendency is a real challenge for Millennial leaders and can affect their ability to lead their team.