How to be a Transformational Leader for Millennials (Or, What’s the Difference between a Mentor and a Boss?)

How to be a Transformational Leader for Millennials (Or, What’s the Difference between a Mentor and a Boss?)

“I just love my new boss.  He really cares about me!”

When I asked this Next-Gen leader from a high-tech industry how he knows this, he said, “Well, the other day, he spent twenty-five minutes talking about my goals and dreams. Then, he asked what he could do to help me achieve those goals. He really cares!”

He went on to say how he loves the company and that he’s recruiting all of his friends to work with him.

Now, this is engagement!

How engaged are the people on your team?

Are you a transformational leader?

Time invested, along with asking insightful questions and listening,  made a huge imprint on this up-and-coming leader. The new leader created a win-win-win atmosphere that inspires, engages, and motivates his emerging leader, strengthens his personal leadership acumen, and fuels sustainable growth for the business. If you’re committed to growing your business, accelerating revenues and strengthening margins, there’s an important lesson here.

Are you a mentor or a boss?

A decade or two ago, this up-and-coming leader’s situation would have looked dramatically different. In the industrial years, being a traditional transactional leader made sense. Traditional leaders operated from their positions of power, demanded everyone on the team to toe-the-line, or else…

These transactional leaders focused on the short-term, day-to-day running of the business. Yes, you could be a jerk, and not get along with others, but if you could get the job done and add to that bottom-line, you were the hero. Motivation meant the “promise” of an increase in pay or a promotion. The idea to invite team members and salespeople to contribute fresh ideas was just crazy!

Can you imagine today’s up-and-coming leaders working in this environment?

There’s no way they will stay fully engaged with that type of leadership!

During my M.A. in Transformation Leadership at Bethel University, we studied the vast differences between transactional and transformational leaders. Or, the difference between bosses and mentors/coaches.

Transformational leaders know that this next-generation wants a mentor or a coach who will invest in them. 79% of Millennials want a coach or mentor, NOT a boss. These leaders look at all aspects of their emerging leader’s life saying, “You’re worth it as a human being to get both encouragement and direction in every area of your life.”

What do you want from this next- generation?

You want them to be thriving in every aspect of their life, don’t you?

You know if their marriage is good, and their home life is good, that’s going to make a difference at work. And, if things are going great at work, they’re going to take that home as well

In a recent Forbes article, I wrote about what a group of Next-gen leaders said when I asked them what they need from their leaders to excel.  Here is a short summary of what they told me:

  • They want to feel like an individual, not a number

Emerging leaders want you to treat them as individuals who have the freedom to leverage their distinctive gifts, talents, and creativity to accomplish your objectives. When surveyed, 100% want to be seen as unique (And, let’s be real – don’t we all want to be seen as distinct and uniquely gifted!)

  • They need regular feedback (or, feed-forward)

Up-and-coming leaders want weekly, daily or even immediate feedback on how they are doing so they can improve and excel. (When surveyed, 64% said that they want more feedback than they currently get. Or, as I call it, feed-forward).

  • They need a mentor

Leaders of this generation told me clearly that they are hungry for mentors and want to collaborate with people who will help them develop their skills and improve their performance. (79% report wanting a mentor or coach, not a boss.)

On which side of the grid below will your future leader find the qualities they want and need from their mentor?

CoachingEvaluation & CritiqueDevelopment based on Invitation & Challenge
FocusSystems & StructuresPeople and Possibilities
Follower reactionCompliance, Meet the StandardCommitment / Give your best
Leader's source of powerRank, PositionCharacter, Competence, Vision, Values
RewardsPay, Promotion, etc.Pride, Self-esteem, etc.
Time horizonShort TermLong Term
Where "leadership" is foundLeadership behaviourFollower's heart
Where Cange occursFollower BehaviorsFollower attitude & Values

When you do an honest assessment of your leadership and sales management strategies, where are you on this grid?  How would your emerging leader and sales team describe you?  Do they see you as their mentor, or their boss? Do they know that you care about them?

I invite you to use your experience and wisdom to be a transformational leader who creates a win-win-win environment where you can grow your leadership acumen, grow your future leader’s potential, and together, grow your business. 

And, your employees will be your most ardent recruiters of top talent to your company – “I just love my new boss.  He really cares about me!”

I also invite you to read my article in LeadershipNow magazine, entitled, How to Be an Engaging Leader in a World of Robotics, AI, and Digitization.

For previous articles in this series go to: Great Leaders Build Great Next-Gen Leaders and How to be a Listening Leader for Millennials

For the next 2 articles in this series go to:  How to be a Differentiated Leader for Millennials and Proven Insights on How to be a Great Leader

Leadership Lesson: Transformational leaders know that their future leaders want a mentor who will invest in every aspect of their lives.

Leadership Question: How might you strengthen your transformational leadership traits to create a win-win scenario for you and your emerging leader?

Millennials Matter
Check out the new Millennial Sales Growth Workshop. Then call me for a FREE consultation at 612-267-3320. Or, eMail me at
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