I am writing this as I sit on a Airbus ATR72 flying down to Christchurch for an Executive Women’s Lunch as a board representative from NZTech. My manicured fingernails tapping on the keyboard are punctuated only by brief glances through the window at white fluffy clouds and a beautiful sunrise.
I am 100% prepared to be the serious business woman I have learned how to be on the professional arena when just hours ago I expressed dorky elation, through my very small group of Facebook friends, on the arrival of my inkWELL press package. Stepping back to reflect, it is hard to believe they are the same person, but it does explain why I have an enormous professional network and only a small group of tight friends.
These groups do not typically meet and there are only 1 or 2 people who bridge both.
Historically, the professional norm for most industries has suggested the need to be stuffy and stoic to be taken seriously. This is the chess board we have played on for centuries and over the last 2 decades I have learned how to play the game. Thinking back to the poker faces around the boardroom table in California, my own tailored suit was accessorized by an impassive expression.
I am guilty of previously referring to employees as revenue generators – effectively de-humanizing the core of a successful business.
As such, I have often thought about the duplicity that is my professional and personal self - of de-valuing my own uniqueness to a standardized revenue denominator. During my 9 years in California, I had conceded the game was a legacy set to continue even though I felt it was inefficient and costly.
However, as I work with other Millennials leading successful technology companies, I sense their shared frustration in playing the legacy chess game. I see their personality reluctantly shrink when trying to fit into the sleeves of this old world. What our Baby Boomer (and some Gen-X) business counterparts need to understand is that Millennials and Digital Natives have been raised in a world where information is readily accessible. A world where our very birth rite is transparency; transparency of selves, transparency of business. So, in situations where a 22-year old technology business founder tries to openly negotiate with a poker-faced ‘business suit’ there is not only authoritative-disparity but also a huge leadership-gap.
Millennials and Digital Natives aren't built to bluff. We are built to collaborate, human to human.
As a Millennial considering an extremely visible leadership opportunity, I compare and contrast my corporate sense of leadership and the undercurrent of leadership to which I was born with. In writing this article, I expose my own vibrancy that is often dulled for the masses; stuffing my big personality into a small, leaky box thinking about how we can re-humanize business and lead more authentically.
Thankfully, as younger people with bigger personalities are tasked to grow more visible companies successfully, our new wave of leadership will gain power. Leadership that cultivates a more humanized business experience.
An environment where leaky boxes are torn open and more dynamic, collaborative conversations out-perform hostile takeovers.
I urge my generational counterparts to stand firm in building better businesses through pragmatic honesty, not being poker-faced or cagey. By leveraging and joining core strengths, not re-inventing the wheel. By shaking off the stiff, impassivity that was the old world of business and riding a more human wave; leading the world in a better direction, together.
As Eleanor Ross stated in her guest blog for Virgin:
“without younger people taking chances and really pushing the boundaries of what is expected, then the boundaries of brands or businesses won’t expand either”
Our new world of collaborative leadership will be required to push these boundaries without losing our sense of humanity and ethical responsibility in the process.
To all those who are currently forced to play the old game. Don't worry, the age of stuffy and stoic business mentality will, one day soon, be a thing of the past. It will leave darkness for some, but will bring a whole new wave of vibrancy through stronger collaboration and achievement to business, communities, and countries to come.