It's not just knowledge, it's also humility.


In this piece, we expand on the third of six beliefs that organizations should change, according to Gallup’s forthcoming book, It’s the Manager.

Belief #3: Millennials and Generation Z don’t want bosses—they want coaches.

Technology innovation has revolutionized nearly everything we do except the way we manage people and structure organizations. We still build, structure, and manage our businesses in the same ways we did 100 years ago.

Hierarchical organizations with bosses and managers were appropriate in the Frederick Winslow Taylor days of the early 20th century. In those times, workers were hired only for their labor and were not expected to think, innovate, or own the outcomes of their work. Even though some degree of hierarchy and supervision is still necessary, this no longer drives the work environment.

Today, we have access to talented employees with the education and motivation to self-manage. We also have the technology to enable them to do so even when they work remotely. Talented young employees neither need nor respond to the conventional idea of a boss. They don’t respect people for just their tenure or their position. They respect people who have the knowledge to teach and the humility to learn.

Because of the natural and creative ways young people understand technology, they can teach experienced people more than any younger generation has ever before been able to teach their elders. At the same time, young people generally understand how much they can learn from more experienced people about life, accomplishment, and leadership. As articulated by Johannes Koettl for The World Bank, “Young people are indeed able to run faster, but old people know the shortcuts.” Mangers now need to be open to and capable of two-way coaching: they need to inspire their team members and coach them, while at the same time being open to being coached by and learning from them.

Here are some things to focus on:

  1. Build coaching into your leadership development programs.
  2. Develop leaders to bring their humility and vulnerability into their leadership roles.
  3. Teach leaders how to understand their team members as individuals of worth, not just as providers of skills you need.

Gallup suggests that millennials and Generation Z care about having team leaders who value them as individuals and employees, and who help them understand and build their strengths.