5 New Millennial Insights to Strengthen your Leadership Development Strategies


5 New Millennial Insights to Strengthen your Leadership Development Strategies

As a leadership development expert, a research report by George Barna, a professor at Arizona University, caught my attention.

New Insights into the Generation of Growing Influence: Millennials in America, is not a quick, scan-over read. The report is extensive, but the investment of your time will be well worth it. Why?

You will learn surprising facts about Millennials in today’s culture.

I’m a bit hesitant to zero in on Millennials only (even though I’ve written a book about how to manage Millennials!) I believe it’s important for us as leaders to be cognizant of Gen Z also.  However, this report is focused on Millennials and worthy of noting key insights.

I’ve followed Barna’s groundbreaking research on worldview, cultural transformation, spiritual development, and politics for many years. He has even supplied polling and strategy to four presidential candidates. (You can read more about him in the report.)

New Insights into the Generation of Growing Influence: Millennials in America, was conducted at the request of Foundations of Freedom. The study addresses various aspects of the life of the Millennial generation. Why them? Because, as I have written in Millennials Matter, Barna also submits that Millennials, while much studied, have been much misunderstood and criticized.

In the foreword, this paragraph explains why I believe the findings in this report are important for us as vision-casting leaders… 

“Yet, with all of the members of that generation now adults, they are entering the defining period of any generation – the high-energy, high-stakes, and high-impact years of their 20s and 30s. This season will define the cohort once and for all – and, in all likelihood, will determine the course of our nation for many years to come.”

5 Insights that will Impact How to Manage Millennials

In this article, I spotlight some of the findings that provide insights on how to manage Millennials (and Gen Z,) and lead wisely, efficiently, and effectively through these turbulent times.

    • Insight 1: Lifestyle – A desire to identify a Purpose for Living.
    • Insight 2: Ideology & Politics – Is American Patriotism a thing of the past?
    • Insight 3: The Faith Factor – The decline of Spiritual Commitment and Engagement.
    • Insight 4: Worldview Considerations – What does the world look like that Millennials are creating?
    • Insight 5: Millennial Connections – Trusting Relationships are the foundation for leadership development.

For ease of reference, I’m supplying the page numbers for every section.  I’m also adding comments with my personal insights, gained from years of working with up-and-coming leaders.

To learn more about the findings of this research study, you can get the full report here.

 Research Uncovers Surprising Leadership Development Findings

So, let’s dive right into some short extracts from the first category that investigates the lifestyle of Millennials. You’ll find more details on pages 18 – 24 of the report.

Insight 1: Lifestyle – Millennials Have a Deep Desire for Purpose

One of the most attention-grabbing attributes revealed in this research regarding the Millennial way of life is their widespread desire to identify a purpose for living.

The research briefly explored the engagement of Millennials in three dimensions of life: religious, political, and community.

About half of the generation claims to be active within the community in a typical month through either volunteering their time to a community organization or donating money to such an organization (other than a church or religious organization).

 Meanwhile, various forms of political or civic engagement showed even higher levels of participation among Millennials.

      • About half admitted to boycotting the products or services of companies because of the organization’s position on matters of importance to the individual.
      • More than four out of 10 had engaged in persuasive dialogue with others regarding points of view related to moral, social, or political issues.
      • One-third of the group had personally participated in some type of civil protest activity– a march, rally, or demonstration that had been held during the prior month.

My comments: Without a strong moral compass for making decisions, it can be easy for them to get hijacked by Fake Media, and by leaders who themselves are promoting destructive ideas. That’s why it’s critically important that you start expanding your leadership influence. If left to their own devices, who knows which direction they will take? Who will show them the way?

When it comes to their emotional and mental well-being, they express a need for better mental and emotional health. This need was the (statistically tied) third-highest ranked desirable change listed by Millennials. To underscore the importance of that result, consider the fact that a majority of young adults (54 percent) admitted to “often feeling anxious, depressed, or unsafe.”

My comments: I believe these findings are a red flag to us…and an incredible opportunity. In a recent article on WebMD, they write that a large majority of Americans are reporting high-stress levels due to financial concerns, inflation, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This, according to a new poll from the American Psychological Association. According to Arthur C. Evans Jr., PhD, the association’s CEO, “Americans have been doing their best to persevere over these past two tumultuous years, but these data suggest that we’re now reaching unprecedented levels of stress that will challenge our ability to cope.”  This highlights the importance of solid, caring, and character-based leadership.

Insight 2: Ideology & Politics (Page 28 – 33) – Is American Patriotism a Thing of the Past?

Barna’s research provides more than a few unexpected outcomes. He believes that it’s the most exciting type of research – that which uncovers surprising facts that lead to a positive and practical direction for the future.

You’ll get detailed information on the following extracts in this section on pages 28 -33.

Because of the contentious times in which we live, more has been written about the social and political views of Millennials than anything else. They are generally described as progressive, sympathetic to the Democrat Party, highly opinionated, activist, and concerned about the future. Like most Americans, Millennials are typically more interested in domestic than international issues.

Regardless of their party identification, a surprisingly small proportion of Millennials describe themselves as an “American patriot.” Only slightly more than half (55 percent) embrace that label.

Specifically, we learned that people in the 18-to-37 age group are less likely than their elders to feel proud to be an American, believe in and obey the U.S. Constitution, express a personal willingness to die to protect our freedoms, accept America’s enemies as their enemies, join the military to defend the nation if called upon to do so, and consider themselves to be “extremely” or “very” patriotic.

My comments: This finding confirms what we see every day. I submit that we – the parents and grandparents – have failed in our civic responsibility. As Reagan famously said back in 1967, “Freedom is a fragile thing and it’s never more than one generation away from extinction.”

How have we failed?  During the Covid lockdown, young parents were directly involved in their children’s education through remote learning. Many were appalled to see that their children were being taught to hate America. So, they may not be as patriotic as their elders, but they are dismayed by the thought of teaching their children to despise and destroy our country.  This awareness is a silver lining in the dark cloud of Covid Craziness.

And, we do have an opportunity to teach and train the next generation about the importance of our history and constitution.  This is why I’m a huge fan of the 1776 project. Without a correct and thorough understanding of our Founding Fathers’ vision for America, the USA will cease to be a world leader.  Our children and grandchildren will live in a world that is foreign to us.

Insight 3: The Faith Factor – The Decline of Spiritual Commitment and Engagement

The report describes the Christian faith as a historically defining factor in the lives of Americans. Barna submits that the decline of spiritual commitment and engagement in America has been a pillar of the nation’s moral and cultural decline.

Here are extracts from their findings on this topic. (Get more details on pages 35 – 44)

The deterioration of the Christian belief and practices in American society has been in progress for more than half a century. However, the pace of that dissipation has greatly accelerated with the coming of age of the Millennials.

In fact, the ambivalence of the age group toward faith is evident in that more than one-quarter (27 percent) portray themselves as not associating with any religious faith or tradition.

That religious indifference is further amplified by the research revealing that three-quarters (74 percent) of the generation believes that all religious faiths are of equal value. And when asked whether they would die for their faith, a mere three out of 10 (29 percent) claimed they would – one of the life elements they were least willing to sacrifice their life to save or protect.

My comments: There is a deep spiritual hunger in this generation. They are desperately searching for something or someone transcendent.  I appreciate the focus of two organizations:

      • PULSE Movement: Nick Hall, originally from North Dakota, is often called the “Billy Graham of this generation.” He speaks of young people searching for meaning and leaving drugs, alcohol, cutting, and yoga behind.
      • CityServe: The Baby Boomer church was often stuck inside its four walls, and didn’t provide practical help and compassion in their neighborhoods. CityServe is igniting Compassion Ministries, and helping followers of Jesus Christ to meet practical, everyday, real needs.
Insight 4: Worldview Considerations – What does the World look like that Millennials will Create? 

In this section, Barna explores a few of the dimensions in which the worldview of Millennials differs from the national norms in the areas of respect for people, civic engagement, and faith.

This extract from the report summarizes what Barna believes about the worldview that Millennials will create. (Get more insights on pages 48 – 57)

The research indicates that the kind of world that Millennials are seeking – and are likely to produce, as they assume greater influence in shaping our culture – would be characterized by significant changes to what currently prevails in America.

      • Government with expanded reach, authority, power, and spending, in the expectation that it will facilitate a more desirable way of living.
      • Flexible and fluid public policies and programs. The syncretistic worldview that most Millennials possess means that American culture will probably become less predictable and consistent than has been the case in the past, owing to the inherently contradictory and sometimes ambiguous worldview positions adopted by young adults.
      • Episodes of violence and combativeness would be more common in a Millennial-led nation. The youngest adult generation is not likely to embrace one of the hallmarks of governance – i.e., progress through negotiated compromise.
      • Political tensions will be inescapable in the short term due to Millennials’ divergent views of core perspectives related to national vision, disdain for compromise, national moral recalibrations, and their revisionist view of U.S. history.
      • The national Christian community will become smaller in numbers, less influential, and less economically robust. Some of the more tangible and dramatic changes resulting from the reshaping of American Christianity will include fewer people and less money being designated for global Christian missions; consistent legal challenges faced by faith-based institutions, such as Christian schools and healthcare entities; and the diminished presence of prayer, the Bible, and pastors in public events.
      • Interpersonal relationships will be more difficult to sustain due to declining levels of trust, diminished willingness to compromise, heightened reliance on technology for communication, and disappointments produced by the lack of moral consensus.
      • The family unit will be reshaped due to fewer formal marriages, increased levels of divorce and separation, liberalized sexual morality, and the reduced appeal of raising children.

Over the past several decades Americans have gradually but consistently abandoned a range of foundational, biblical beliefs in favor of a consensual, emotion-driven, human-focused understanding of and response to the world.

Insight 5: Millennial Connections – A Millennial View of Trust in Relationships

No leadership development strategy will be successful if it isn’t based on a trusting relationship. And, for me, it wasn’t at all surprising when I read this in the report…

“Elected government officials, popular social media personalities, and entertainment celebrities were all described as not trustworthy by half or more of the Millennials.”

In Millennials Matter, the word “trust” is mentioned 51 times!

Transformative mentoring and development of a young leader happen in the context of a strong, trusted relationship. ~ Danita Bye, Millennials Matter

 Considering this quote, the research conducted by Barna is revealing.

On pages 60 – 63 you’ll find more insights, but here are a few excerpts that caught my attention.

Relationships are a big deal for all of us, but they seem especially central in the minds and hearts of Millennials.

By far the people most trusted by Millennials are…

        • Their parents: 46 percent said they could be trusted to tell the truth or to do what is right either always or almost always, with another 32 percent saying they could be trusted sometimes.
        • The second-most trustworthy type of influence in their life was friends, for which 36 percent said they could always or almost always be trusted, and 40 percent said they were sometimes trustworthy.

Some of the other trust levels awarded were either unexpected or disappointing – or both. For instance, college professors ranked third among the nine influencers tested, well above pastors.

Speaking of pastors, they placed fourth in this line-up, with only one-quarter of young adults feeling pastors are consistently trustworthy, and one-seventh of them saying they can “never” trust Christian pastors.

What was not unexpected, though, were the lukewarm grades assigned to the bottom three entities assessed. Elected government officials, popular social media personalities, and entertainment celebrities were all described as not trustworthy by half or more of the Millennials.

My Comments: In my article, 4 Steps to Create a Trust Triangle that Drives Your Sales Growth Strategy, I discuss the importance of trust, the foundation to expand your leadership influence.

Summary: Create Actionable Leadership Development Strategies

As a leader, committed to character-based leadership development, how will you react to the findings of Barna’s study?

In the afterword, (pages 66 – 81) Barna identifies the three typical types of readers of research reports.

    • First, there are those seeking knowledge. They will keep a mental catalog of the insights but are less interested in acting on the research.
    • The second group will use the research as fodder for conversations. Sometimes those exchanges are meant to clarify their own perspectives, but more often the research is a foundation for their criticism towards the study group – in this case, Millennials. For example, rather than applying the insights to obtain better outcomes, they will use the information in quotes to strengthen stereotypical thinking about Millennials.
    • The third group is where I hope to find you – the experienced, character-based leader, committed to building great future leaders. Professor Barna calls this group the transformers: people who want to take action in response to the challenges and opportunities identified through the research.

So, how might you change your leadership development strategies to expand your leadership influence?  How do you become a transformer – a leader who acts?

In Millennials Matter, you will find tips and practical action steps to assist you in your role as a leadership development coach. As one of my friends put it in his review, “Millennials Matter is filled with truths you and your team can act on to make a difference in your future and our future. This book is a toolbox to build trust and influence and impact our current and future leaders. We need to do this now!” —David Horsager, Trust Edge Leadership Institute

I invite you to consider different ways of joining together these pieces of the Millennial puzzle by generating new ideas about how to manage millennials and Gen Z and to better address their needs.

Follow this great advice from Professor Barna…

“Research that does not lead to corrective action is just an exercise in gathering information for its own sake.”

Constantly seek new insights and use them to make a positive impact and expand your leadership influence. Your leadership matters, now more than ever.

Leadership Development Lesson: New insights lead to action. When there is no action, there is no forward movement.

Leadership Development Question: How might you use your leadership role to guide future leaders towards a path where they too, can expand their leadership influence?

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To schedule, a call contact me at danita@danitabye.com

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