The millennial generation is the subject of a lot of public and academic discourse. Many are quick to label them as self-entitled, lazy, selfish, and a whole range of other unflattering adjectives. However, a closer look reveals that millennials are also among the most socially conscious and forward-thinking people in the world today. They are not hesitant to voice their opinions on issues they feel strongly about and have been the spearhead of many social development movements around the world.
When this millennial fervour gets channelised through millennial leaders, you have the potential for some truly phenomenal and inspiring young people. Millennial leaders from different walks are taking on challenges and status quos unafraid, and changing the way we think about life, business, culture, and community. They’re taking big leaps, inspiring millions, and creating products and applications that are truly transformative. We take a look at some of the most inspirational millennial leaders from the around the world and what they have to say on issues that matter.
Be yourself – it’s the best that you can do
It is easy to dismiss young people as “inexperienced” and “immature” and not take them seriously as leaders. However, millennials more often than not don’t really care about such labels, choosing to let their work speak for itself. Which is a lesson in not allowing criticism pull you down and staying true to yourselves, no matter what others say.
“I was so silly – I tried to be very formal and put on a deep voice to clients over the phone, so I didn’t have to meet them and give away how young I was. I lied about my age. I lied about the size of my team. I lied about my experience. I was so terribly embarrassed about it for so long. I should have just owned up.” – David Karp, CEO, Tumblr
“When we decided not to sell our business people called us a lot of things besides crazy – things like arrogant and entitled. The same words that I’ve heard used to describe our generation time and time again. The Millennial Generation. The ‘Me’ Generation. Well, it’s true. We do have a sense of entitlement, a sense of ownership, because, after all, this is the world we were born into, and we are responsible for it.” – Evan Spiegel, Co-founder, Snap Inc.
Nothing to fear, not even fear itself
Fear is a natural instinct that many entrepreneurs go through. However, getting past it, and reducing fear to a simple thought that doesn’t influence your actions, is a key skill millennial leaders appear to have aced.
“My biggest fear is to see a world where girls continue to be treated as property, unable to imagine or create a bright future for themselves, and to see world leaders not take action to end gender-based violence around the world, [violence] that happens everywhere in the world.” – Sonita Alizadeh, Rapper and thought leader
“The biggest risk is not taking any risk...In a world that is changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.” –Mark Zuckerberg, Founder, Facebook
“I think it’s great to be flawed. I am hugely flawed, and I like it this way. That’s the fun of life. You fall, get up, make mistakes, learn from them, be human, and be you.” –Priyanka Chopra, Actor
Own your vision, and push boundaries
Don’t be happy with being content. Try to push beyond your own expectations and those of others, and be open to new challenges that may arise. Millennials are rarely content with where they are and are always hungry for the next challenge to conquer. This hunger, in part, drives them to success.
“We like winning. But we want to win for a reason: because this industry is going to have a major impact on how cities work, how people get around, how cities are built. It’s critical to us, we feel a responsibility to that, the company has a strong set of values around taking care of people who are part of the business. As people got to see that, Lyft got to shine this year.” – John Zimmer, CEO, Lyft
“Four years ago, when I started this company none of these things existed. You couldn’t get groceries delivered in one hour, you couldn’t get them delivered from all grocery stores in a market. Today Instacart does this, as a result of that, we grew to get to this point very, very fast. We went from having three markets to 15 – when you grow so fast obviously you’re going to have adjustments you’re going to have to make.” – Apoorva Mehta, CEO, Instacart
“We believe there is only so much you can learn in the classroom. But with practical work experiences, you can translate learning into habits that will make you a true professional.” – Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, Co-founder, Flutterwave
“Entrepreneurship is the act of turning an idea into an actual innovation. It’s equal parts tenacity, operational execution, and vision, and it’s at the core of what it takes to bridge the gap between today and tomorrow.” –Jessica Matthews, CEO, Uncharted Power
Success 101: be business savvy
If you’re trying to be effective in the workforce, become more business savvy. It helps in creating opportunities for yourself where there previously were none. Millennials are not shy about pushing into new territory and going into spaces where no one has ventured before. This pioneering spirit, combined with a good business sense, lays the foundation for a successful career.
“The first advice I give to any women who want to become an entrepreneur is to find a problem that you see in any industry and if you’re very passionate about it, find a solution.” – Michelle Phan, CEO, Phan Cosmetics and YouTube star
“The concept of my startup is, ‘Let’s use hacker tools to defeat hackers.’ If you don’t know how to break it, you don’t know how to fix it.” – Gregory Falco, CEO, NeuroMesh
“A light bulb went off in my head like, ‘Oh my God, there are companies out there charging 20 percent of annual salary.’ At this point, I had this coming-to-Jesus moment that I needed to go out and hire other people who had experience in recruiting, who had experience in client acquisition – and that’s really when our business started taking off.” – Karson Humiston, CEO, Vangst
Whether it be entrepreneurship, the arts, corporate ladders, or activism, millennials are making their mark felt across a host of diverse sectors. Instead of decrying their sins, perhaps the world would be better served by observing their best qualities and replicating them elsewhere. After all, these are the citizens and leaders of tomorrow, and they are the ones building the better world of the future.