Earlier this year, we conducted a global research project that queried Millennials about their vision for their careers, their leaders, and the future of business. Although there were lots of great insights, one tidbit really struck me – it relates to gender dynamics. It’s a promising message for the future. 

We asked Millennial men and women to identify their own strengths as leaders and future leaders. We also asked Millennial men and women to identify the leadership qualities that resonate with them most and are most important to find in their leaders. They were given 15 qualities – the dimensions of executive presence. 

Here were the options for both questions:

  1. Authenticity
  2. Integrity
  3. Concern
  4. Restraint
  5. Humility
  6. Practical Wisdom
  7. Confidence
  8. Composure
  9. Resonance
  10. Vision
  11. Appearance
  12. Intentionality
  13. Inclusiveness
  14. Interactivity
  15. Assertiveness

Each person was asked to select the top 3 highest rated of these qualities with respect to each of the two aforementioned questions. Here were the findings for self-reported strengths for Millennial men and Millennial women:


Millennial men and women interestingly both reported that authenticity, integrity, and concern were in their top 3 self-reported strengths. The interesting change is that the number 4 spot was different between men and women – while men identified confidence as a top strength, women reported humility. What becomes more interesting is when you compare this data to the responses to the second question – which qualities are most important to Millennial men and Millennial women when it comes to leader they’d like to follow? Here are the results:


Millennial men actually reported that one of the top 5 (of 15) qualities that they look for in a leader was humility, and women reported humility as a top 5 self-strength. This is really interesting, because it would suggest that Millennial men may not only respond to female leaders with equal enthusiasm as they would respond to male leaders, but they may actually respond to women better. We can’t yet say the relationship is causal or predictive, but it certainly gets us thinking. Today, there are only 24 female CEOs in the Fortune 500 and 27 in the Fortune 1000. We’re hopeful that as Millennials rise among the ranks in our global business economy, and look for leaders with humility as well as strengths in authenticity and integrity, those numbers might finally change for the better.

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