In spite of good intentions, can leaders (including professors, coaches, mentors, and managers) inadvertently hold people back? The May 2010 Harvard Business Review includes several articles on engaging, managing and coaching high-potential, emerging young leaders. In four years Millennials – people born between 1977 and 1997 – will account for nearly half the employees in the world. These people, and the Generation X and Y that came before them, have grown up and will lead in a world of rapid, incessant change. Styles of leadership and teaching that worked a few years ago are becoming increasingly ineffective. Some bosses, leaders and seminar speakers aren’t aware of this. They want to build up others but unintentionally they stifle their followers instead. Consider the following indications that you might be an unintentional people-repressor. (In the interest of full disclosure I confess that these all can apply to me. I’m working to be more sensitive).

  • You’re a visionary. You like to set direction for the future and inspire others to follow. You think you’re motivating and being a forward looking leader. But you haven’t encouraged your team to get involved in the vision casting, shaping an even better vision and thinking through the challenges themselves. You’re not tapping into their brainpower so they withdraw and often feel disengaged from what they perceive as your project. Lacking motivation these people stifle their input and look to move, work or serve someplace else.
  • You talk too much. You’re passionate, enthusiastic and articulate so you dominate meetings. You think you are being inspirational and informative, sharing a passion that’s infectious. In reality your talk is smothering and squelching potential growth and creativity.
  • You’re creative. You’re always thinking of new ideas, assuming that this sparks creativity. Instead it can create pressure as others try to keep up with the new ideas and have no time to develop their own creativity.

Many high potential people want opportunities to collaborate, make decisions, take risks, and connect with mentors and coaches who guide by asking questions and stimulating thinking rather than by giving enthusiastic or top-down direction. Think about it. What makes these generational differences?

NPR Poll Examines Attitudes of Millennial Generation


  1. I agree with many of these points, and have personally been witness to some examples of this in my current university setting. I believe my generation really appreciates creativity and vision as long as, like you’ve explained, they are able to contribute and participate in the process. The other aspect of the issue is that due to the hierarchical relationships involved, the leaders may never receive this feedback, unless they are receiving coaching/leadership consulting services (360 evals, ect). So let’s hope they’re reading your newsletters.


    1. Ryan, I think you are right on about Leaders not being aware of their own ineffective style. This is one of the hardest pieces of the puzzle. Is it standard practice for coaches to interview colleagues or other individuals that surround the Leader in the workplace in order to point out these leadership problems?


      1. I think a 360 evaluation probably does a lot of this, especially when there is a place for the evaluators to give written commentary. The problem is leaders who do not respond to the evaluation. Of course in some companies the leaders cannot ignore the 360s that their employers have mandated.

      2. Hi Jon, thanks for the comment. As far as coaches interviewing the individuals surrounding a leader… it is fairly common for executive coaches. These reviews are also used by management consultants or leadership consultants, both internal and external to organizations. Individuals in these roles often do a lot of coaching as well, just under different titles, possibly more inclusive ones.

        As far as the process, you can search for ‘360 assessment’ ‘360 degree feedback’ or ‘360 degree review’. This is some variation as to how these are conducted, and there are new assessment instruments being developed and used all the time. There’s basically how they sound, and just what you described in your question. Feedback is provided by subordinates, supervisors as well as their peers, customers/clients and they review themselves. They are typically utilized for developmental purposes and can also help to inform the direction of the coaching/consulting services being provided.

        As far as your comment about which generation should conform to the other’s norms/standards, I think it probably is, as you said, a “both/and” situation. However, I think it is the leader’s responsibility to motivate and to bring the the best out of his/her subordinates. One of my favorite leadership quotes is by Dwight D. Eisenhower, “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” The best way for leaders to get ‘buy in’ is to speak their language if you will, and encourage their creative participation throughout the process. There is much wisdom in mentoring in a way in which one allows the mentee to come up with the right answers on their own.

    2. Ryan,

      I hope others read this newsletter too!

      I appreciate your response, especially since you are of the Millennial age and have experienced what I wrote about this week. Since writing this newsletter I have been looking at myself to be sure that I am sensitive to the younger people, including students, that I work with and hang out with.


      1. Gary, I think it shows that you are intentional about doing that. And I like the format of the newsletter. Thanks.

  2. Wow this is the kind of thing I wish my boss would read about :p Its amazing how people do/don’t understand how much generational differences can increase/harm productivity in today’s jobs. One of the best books I’ve read this year is REWORK from 37signals. By being a millennial/generation X (I’m not even sure) you read the way these people work and you say YES that is the way it should be done, this is how I want to treat others and be treated. One funny thing that I like is that many of this principles I’ve also read in a collection of books called the Bible hahaha.

    The content of the blog in general has been great Gary, the design is nice but I think I’ve seen it in some other pages (please excuse me if I’m confused) and it would be great to have your own design, maybe something minimalist (just my personal likes, specially to this kind of topics because it makes me want to say longer in this site) that wouldn’t take much time for a web designer.


    1. The Bible?

      Now there is a creative idea.

      Mauro thanks for your comments in the second paragraph. I need to run this by Jon to see what he thinks can be done. As I look at this I have a few other tweaks that I would like to involve if we could. What do you think about the letter that cam to your email? If people do not want to respond they can simply read the letter and then move on without clicking over to this blog.


      1. The letter’s design looks good to me, clear and easy to read. The indentation is not correct though, for example the first bullet is way too close to the image. I’m not sure if that is a problem because of me using gmail, but the with of the html doesn’t seems like standard to me right now its max width 1024px which is way to big, the size should be between 550-600 and it will look more like the blog which is something good.

        Check at this two sites:
        Other standards:

      2. (just tried to reply but my reply disappeared but here i go again hehe)

        Email look is nice and clean, a good thing! Now the width of the email is way to big (right now it says 1024), even if you can read it harms the indentation (in my case the first bullet is touching the image, using gmail) I would suggest that you use a fixed with of 550-600px

        Other email standards:

  3. While I think it is helpful for Leaders to be students of the emerging generation, is the onus always on the Leader to conform to the norms/styles of the emerging culture? Does the emerging generation need to acquiesce to an older generations norms/culture? Seems like a strong bias toward the youth.
    There is probably a “both/and” response to this. I fear that we place so much focus on getting our Wisdom and Wise Leaders to be “relevant” that we miss the opportunity to say to them “don’t be relevant, be wise and we can listen.” Then again, here goes Gary Collins – showing us that both can be done!

    There is so much attention on Millennials using social networking as a collective wisdom hub and I think something is gained and missed with that approach. Some of the best leaders of wisdom are more apt to lead you into “the desert” vs. handing you an Ipad.


  4. The information provided in this post is informative and challenging. Much appreciated.

    This new format appears to be appealing and invites interaction. I think you are headed in a great direction! The graphs do show up clearly in my e-mail.

    Lord bless,


    1. Steve, I really appreciate your input. This is the sort of thing we are looking for in this teat run this week. What do you think of Jon’s comments above?


  5. Thanks for these thoughts, Gary. I think there’s a strong desire among the younger generation to be collaborative/challenged in a new way. Younger leaders are looking to grow, learn, and strategize in more relaxed and low-key settings. There are certainly flaws to this at times, but younger leaders seem to want to flatten the organization hierarchy, to give everyone an opportunity to lend a voice to the direction of the conversation. While that sort of thinking does pull everyone in, there are often times a leader is essential to step up to guide and direct.


    1. Like some of the others, Erik, I especially appreciate your comments because you are a part of the age group that I am writing about. In your work, you work with a lot of leaders who are older than you. Is the message of this newsletter relevant to the people you work with?


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