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Five leadership qualities young people demand

Sure to be a hot topic during the National Young Adult Leaders Conference (8–13 July), what are the key qualities that young people look for in their leaders? Journey picks five must-have traits for leaders who want to command the attention and respect of millennials.


Young people want their leaders—whether in the church, the workplace, the parliament or on a sports-field—to have a genuine sense of themselves and speak from the heart. They want a leader who has the self-awareness to not just identify personal strengths, but, critically, vulnerabilities, and how they overcome them. Relatability is vital and the seemingly all-too-perfect expose themselves to charges of inauthenticity.

2Commitment to social responsibility

From environmental issues to human rights concerns, young people have an acute sense of the challenges humanity must overcome and expect their leaders to share that concern. Millennials want to see their workplaces treat “corporate responsibility” as more than just buzzwords to virtue-signal: they want concrete actions. But whether it’s a line-manager or a church leader, the lesson equally applies: make young people feel that they’re part of a broader social movement that gets results.

3A flexible and adaptive attitude

A top-down view of others as a homogenous unit that can be shaped to the will of the leader no longer cuts it in a world of empowered young people used to open, egalitarian dialogue on Twitter and Facebook. Being willing and able to adapt yourself to those with vastly different expectations for communication styles, technological platforms and even workplace habits (think ‘remote working’) than their parents’ generation, will reap the ultimate rewards of engagement and productivity.


There’s more than a skerrick of truth to the cliché that millennials are a generation of me-me-me, and leaders must understand their cultural context of “participation ribbons” and “helicopter parenting”. Empowerment methods such as mentoring programs or ongoing positive reinforcement are the make-or-break for leaders who want an environment where their youth can flourish.

5Embrace innovation

When each year brings more disruptive technology and e-solutions to shake up the way we live and interact with each other, young people are accustomed to living in a constantly shifting landscape of new ideas and tectonic shifts to tradition (for instance, Airbnb has fundamentally re-conceptualised holiday accommodation). Leaders must be willing to embrace change and be unafraid to push boundaries and test the unknown.

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