By: Meghan McGrath, Director of Marketing

A colleague of mine recently shared with me a wonderful TED Talk about millennials. In the talk, speaker Kristen Puchek identifies five qualities that she feels define “millennialness”.

Gen Y’ers are….

  • Purpose Driven
  • Brand Oriented
  • Innovative
  • Connected
  • Courageous

What I like about Kristen’s approach is that she talks about millennials without fully praising or damning them, but rather starting an interesting conversation. Often when the topic of generational differences comes up, people start feeling really opinionated and or defensive. It’s easy to play the blame game when we’re talking about people who are unknowns - or different from us in an overarching way, and much constructive dialog and learning gets missed in the process.

In particular, I’d like to zero in on Kristen’s point about millennials being “brand oriented”.

 (By the way if you’d like to check out her TED Talk feel free to do so here: )

For better or for worse, millennials have grown up surrounded by technology. These 20 and 30 somethings, due to the timely emergence of social media profiles in the early 2000’s, have become expert personal marketers. They have been posting photos, tweeting, liking, sharing, and commenting for the better part of their lives – essentially building their own personal brands with the audiences that are important to them. And they take the time to learn what matters to those changing audiences so they can engage in new ways. As leaders, we have to follow a similar protocol with stakes that are even higher. There's nothing worse than wearing mom jeans in an office full of trend setters. Your wardrobe probably doesn't look the same as it did 20 years ago (or even 5 for that matter), so why should your leadership style be any different? 

Your brand matters now more than ever

In the digital age, your personal brand – sometimes called executive presence –  is more visible than ever. This means that as leaders, it is more and more urgent for us to spend time ensuring that we’re being seen the way that we want to at work and in front of all of our most important audiences. Perhaps even more importantly, we need to know what’s on our audience’s agenda. What makes them tick, what they value and what leadership qualities they’re going to respond well to. To put it in millennial terms, we need to look at how can we get our vision and strategies as leaders to get the most “likes” and “shares”.

As your audience changes, you must adopt your leadership style accordingly

As Kristen’s calls out in her TED Talk, “the face and the behaviors of a leader are changing”, and subsequently what is expected of leaders as they show up each day is also changing. It’s a new business world with a new look and feel that is sculpted and carved each day as quickly as you can say retweet.

By 2025 (which by the way is only 8 years away) three quarters of the workforce will be made up of millennials. But that’s not the only thing that’s changing. For example, according to a Pew Research study 40% of millennials have tattoos. That means about 35 million eligible professionals will be sporting ink somewhere on their body. Millennials are also the most racially diverse population in US history with over 40% of the population identifying as non-white.  Workplace norms and styles of communication will need to shift significantly with the changing faces of your followers.

Returning to our theme about leadership brand and visibility – some other statistics might interest you as well. The average adult in the US checks their phone somewhere around 30 times per day…the average millennial however checks their phone about 150 times. They are sharing more about what they observe; they are engaging more deeply with others; they are processing much more information at once; and they need more compelling ideas and messages to stand out from the noise.  What does this mean? It means that in eight years, 75% of the work force will be watching your leadership ever more carefully. When you know your audience and are able to actually reach their hearts and minds in a way that’s authentic to you, and in a way that makes your unique brand stand out, your messages and strategies will go viral!

If you want to work on your personal brand and how you can lead more engagingly with millennials or any other audience, check out some of our best selling programs: 

Speak Like a CEO: In this program, you’ll learn how to connect with any audience, understand their agenda, and tell stories in a way that will rally folks around your vision, mission and strategy.

Executive Presence Mastery: Ever wondered how your important audiences really see you at work? Our assessment tool is designed to tell you exactly that. The ExPI is designed to jump start your awareness and lead you down a path of taking actionable steps to polish your personal leadership brand.


Want to lead a more innovative team/ foster an innovative culture in your organization? Check out this webinar: How to Lead Innovation When You Don't Have Any Ideas

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