In my previous article, Gen Y or Millennials: Myths, Realities, and Needs, I had discussed the misconceptions, myths, realities about Gen Y or Millennials and their needs. Now let's focus on one their specific needs: Self-Leadership and Self-Awareness.

Self-leadership should be the foundation of any leadership skills development, especially Gen Y or Millennials leadership development.

So, what is Self-Leadership? Bryant and Kazan (2012) define Self-Leadership as having a developed sense of who you are, what you can do, and where you are going, coupled with the ability to influence your communication, emotions, and behavior on the way to getting there. According to Andrew Bryant in What is Self-Leadership (2016),

Self-leadership equates to the leadership competencies of Self Observation and Self-Management but most importantly, self-leadership influences all aspect of your life, your health, your career and your relationships. Self-leaders are self-motivated to take purposeful action and therefore make better leaders, entrepreneurs, and team members.

Ken Blanchard in Self-Leadership: More Important Than Ever writes, “In this [the 21st Century] collaborative, decentralized environment, training people to become self-leaders — team members who set priorities, take initiative, and solve problems — is more important than ever.”

In an earlier post of this series, I had advocated that Gen Y or Millennials typically have high self-esteem, a global perspective, and an optimistic view. However, they MAY have the propensity to speak up appropriately, listen to their more experienced colleagues, autonomy and responsibility. Since self-leadership is about inside-out success and effectiveness, we would need a shift in modeling Gen Y or Millennial leadership.

As noted earlier, self-leaders are confident, highly self-aware, and self-motivated goal-setters and goal-achievers. However, their goals and desires to succeed must be aligned to the goals and success of the organization. The alignment is often mutually productive, as Bryant suggests, when the goals and success benchmarks are set from top-down, as was the case for Baby-boomers and Gen X-ers, who by the way conformed to the goals and success benchmarks and went about achieving them, often without questioning the organizational hierarchical authority.

Gen Y or Millennials, conversely are often non-conformist and do not prefer rigid hierarchy of authority. Gen Y or Millennials prefer a network of peers that is non-hierarchical, flexible, and adaptive. For Gen Y or Millennials, it is all about making a living, having a life, and having a purpose in work. Baby-boomers and Gen X-ers seldom questioned, whereas Gen Y or Millennials often question and want to be heard.

As we see, self-leadership is not easy; it is challenging yet rewarding.

So, how does one go about grooming and developing Gen Y or Millennials self-leaders?

Bryant suggests, “Self-leaders are constantly developing self-awareness [Daniel Goleman subscribes it as Emotional Self-awareness], self-confidence and self-efficacy (self-belief).”

The first skill of self-leadership is to stop and step back from the things that trigger us to react, and instead listen. Organizations and its leaders must listen, engage, evaluate via feedback, and not simply tell Gen Y or Millennials what to do. For self-leadership to occur for Gen Y and Millennials, organizations must promote environments that goes beyond making a living and basic survival needs and align purposeful meaning in Gen Y or Millennials lives. Purpose promotes intention and precedes any purposeful action or behavior. Intention is what is important to Gen Y or Millennials, their values and what they are trying to achieve. Gen Y or Millennials live a life of choice, influence, and impact the world around them.

One piece of advice I give to my Gen Y or Millennials clients is to volunteer for new and challenging assignments at work and not allow fear of failure stop them in their tracks. The more challenges you face, the stronger you become. Taking assignments no one else knows how to do will also provide you with skills your employer needs that no one else has. It is not only a great way to build job security; taking on more challenges promotes self-leadership.

In the next posts of this series, I will focus on addressing specific skills needed and are interdependent to Self-Leadership: Self-Awareness, Self-Confidence and Self-Efficacy.

Question: Do you think there is a willingness to develop Generation Y or the Millennials leaders in your organization?

Dr. Shahid SheikhDr. Shahid Sheikh has been consulting internationally since 1987, and coaching professionally since 2013. With over 40 years of progressive management and leadership experience as a military officer, marketing specialist, entrepreneur, dean/provost/chief academic officer, and corporate consultant, Dr. Sheikh now helps high-impact Generation Y or the Millennials executives, business owners, and entrepreneurs succeed in their careers and leadership and achieve exceptional business results through self-leadership, emotional intelligence, mindfulness, and empathy. In addition to a Doctorate in Organization Change, he is also certified at the ACC level by the ICF (International Coach Federation).

Learn more about Dr. Sheikh