Can Millennials Define Leadership, Success, and Work in 15 words or less?

This is an overview piece based on questions I was asked for a leadership forum. Each of my answers about leadership, work, and success is an image, which is linked to an additional post that elaborates on my thought process behind my answer. 

The rain clouds had scurried off, leaving whimsical white strokes in the deepening blue. On top of those sat deposited white puffs. And in the distance, whipped cream ridges circled serenly as if decorating 5-kilometre-radius cake.

tokyo arakawa skytree sunset

Cycling along the Arakawa in Tokyo

As I was heading home from an evening ride, I got a surprise message. It was a request from a former boss-mentor-friend. She’s so busy she only gets in touch when she needs something. Normally, that’s the type of person no-one wants to know. She’s a bit of an exception. She’s about the only person who can make a request that I will likely say yes to even if that means staying up all night or cancelling a string of plans. I don’t even hate myself for it because I know what she’s asking me to do will help other people.

Leadership so you don't need to make a face like this -- Image courtesy of Giphy

Leadership so you don’t need to make a face like this — Image courtesy of Giphy

I’m not the only one. She has a lot of people to call on, from all industries and walks of life. She rarely has even the time to follow up with a result, but none of us mind.

One person, and you may call it click. A handful, and one may brush it off as luck. But to repeatedly create relationships where people go out of their way to over deliver is a mark of great leadership.

Anyhow, this friend was phoning me to ask about my thoughts on leadership. She was giving a keynote industry speech on millennials at a forum and since she didn’t want to reduce things to an abstract, she decided to profile 4 people who chose entirely different paths in life.

Questions to Millennials

giphy

Really, what an ask feels like. jk. — Image courtesy of Giphy

After asking my permission and giving me more of a background on the event, she sent me a form (so that the 4 answers she got could be standardised).

I’m especially interested in your thoughts on Questions 8-12, so please leave you ideas in the comments!

  1. Name
  2. Age
  3. Education
  4. Current job/employer
  5. # of jobs since leaving school
  6. # of FB friends
  7. Do you play Pokemon Go?
  8. Your definition of leadership (in 15 words of less)
  9. What qualities do you look for in a leader that you respect? (in 15 words or less)
  10. Your definition of work (in 15 words of less)
  11. Your definition of success (in 15 words of less)
  12. ONE proudest/exciting moment/event/achievement that you would like to share (in 50 words of less)

For a one-pager, the simple questions were a good challenge to see if I actually had somethign to say after mulling on these topics for years.

I’ve been lucky to have strong female role models who gave me responsibilities and coached me through delivering on them well. But it’s also easy to take good leadership for granted and judge mediocre leaders. When it came down to it, what really mattered?

Do you play Pokemon Go?

An important first question for profiling in this day and age! 🙂 No, I don’t.

Your definition of leadership (in 15 words of less)

leadership cpa australia ja asia pacific

Leadership in 14 words

What’s your definition of leadership?

What qualities do you look for in a leader that you respect? (in 15 words or less)

leadership cpa australia ja asia pacific

A leader in 14 words

Values are meaningless without form.

Praiseworthy human qualities can be demonstrated. Human integrity is a habit. A single action is worth a list of virtues. I have a longer post elaborating on this coming up.

What is a leader to you? Who is a good role model for you?

Your definition of work (in 15 words of less)

leadership cpa australia ja asia pacific

What does work mean to you?

My first response to the question about work was that I don’t think about “work”. I was tempted to write “work is a concept”, but the full meaning behind the words would be lost without context. I will unpack this in a full post!

What’s work to you?

Your definition of success (in 15 words of less)

leadership cpa australia ja asia pacific

Success in 15 words

It’s not enough to dismiss “common” or “accepted” notions of success without defining something for ourselves.

Success can be as big and small as we want it to be. We should not belittle grand ambitions, nor look down on humble dreams. Both are of equal value and meaning to the people who hold them, and (hopefully) to the people they bring value to as a result of their dreams.

Again, I will unpack this!

Over to you first! What’s success to you?

ONE proudest/exciting moment/event/achievement that you would like to share (in 50 words of less)

My more accommodating answer was 50 words: “I walked the Shikoku 88-temple pilgrimage alone for 40 days during typhoon season and high summer. I slept on the street half the time. Despite spraining my ankle early on, I finished without treatment. Normally, a pilgrim makes one wish throughout, but I dedicated each temple to a specific person.”

And I will explain the gap in a follow-up post. I’ll throw it out there that I could not relate to the word ‘proudest’, so I substituted it for ‘most meaningful’.

What’s your proudest moment, or most meaningful achievement to date?

 

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I’d like to believe that these workplace values that I hold are not unique to my generation. While millennials may be more proactive, vocal, and even judgemental, about workplace culture, leadership, and values, the desire to contribute in a supportive environment, with visionary leadership, for something meaningful is an ideal no-one would be opposed to (even if they’re uninterested).

My friend had wanted to ask her colleagues, whom are mostly senior management and executives, “If young people today are willing to spend so much extra time working on things outside of work they that they believe in, what does it say about the nature of the workplaces that we are creating now?

I want to ask of my generation – and of all people who are working: if we so care about a company’s values, culture, and conduct, what are we doing as individuals to demonstrate that we embody the values we hold others to? Even as we demand to be heard, how can we listen better to others? Even as we make our suggestions, how can we empathise and appreciate the perspectives of prior generations? How do we work with them instead of asking them to work more like us?

Over to you. Please leave your thoughts on any of the above.

2 responses to “Can Millennials Define Leadership, Success, and Work in 15 words or less?

  1. Pingback: A Millennial’s Definition of Leadership: Some Thoughts | The Cup and the Road·

  2. Pingback: A Millennial’s Definition of Work in 15 Words | The Cup and the Road·

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