Headlines seem to be afire with Generation Y or Millennial information and taunts of questionable characteristics. Time magazine dedicated a cover to the topic with the title of “The Me Me Me Generation.” While ODesk released a report entitled “Millennials and the Future of Work,” the Business Civic Leadership Center (BCLC) issued Part 1 entitled “What will Millennials Think of American Business?

The reason for the interest may be about momentum. There are Millennial Leaders: Welcome to the Arenaover 80 million Millennials, the largest generation to date. In addition, it is estimated that Gen Y will make up 46 percent of the work force by 2020.

Statistics, Statistics

“Facts are stubborn things, but statistics are pliable.” – Mark Twain

So, what do all these articles say? They say positive and some not-so-positive things. Here are some samples.

From Time:

  • 58% more college students scored higher on a narcissism scale in 2009 than in 1982
  • 40% of Millennials believe they should be promoted every two years
  • Millennials are dominated by peer interaction, more than ever before, meaning little interaction with older people

From ODesk:

  • 90 percent of Millennials believe being an entrepreneur means a certain mindset – being a self-starter, risk-taker, visionary and someone who “spots opportunity”
  • 58 percent of Millennials classify themselves as entrepreneurs without having to start their own business

From BCLC:

  • 41% of Millennials are satisfied with the way things are going in the country
  • In 2011, 160,000 startups were created each month and 29% were led by entrepreneurs between the ages of 20 and 34 years old
  • About 28 percent of Millennials are underemployed

Ignore Your Critics, Embrace Their Feedback

“Critics are our friends, they show us our faults.” – Benjamin Franklin

There are many lessons in the statistics. The first is to not get entangled in them. Statistics change. Times change. People change. The second lesson is to embrace the information. Learn from it. Understand it. Use it to ensure you are on the right path. Feedback is the lifeblood of any leader, and we need to embrace it in a learning, open way. We can discard what isn’t true or valid and we can learn from what challenges us.

Recently, I attended a session on leadership development for Millennial leaders, hosted at an ASTD (American Society for Training & Development) convention, the data was inadequate and about a third of the time was spent on Millennial humor. It is time to stop raising perceived differences and it is time to begin active listening and engaging.

The lesson is simple: Ignore the critics, embrace constructive feedback.

Welcome to the Arena! Lead from the Arena.

“…The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

What more can be said then this: “Welcome to the arena!” President Theodore Roosevelt said it well.

As a Millennial leader, the arena is yours, the good stuff and the challenging stuff. What you do while in it is up to you. You can let the critics distract you or you can lead with the purpose instilled within you. You can embrace the characteristics seemingly given to you or you can reach out to other generations and engage in meaningful conversations.

What do you do when you are in the arena? Well, simply said, you perform. Words can be hollow; choices and actions confirm character.

Key things to consider:

  • Learn from feedback but don’t get bogged down with the generalizations.
  • Engage in active conversations across generations. There are willing coaches and mentors who will listen, guide, and encourage. Make your perspective known. Listen to their advice. Develop a leadership bond.
  • Embrace your positives and build upon them. There is much work to do so go do it in the best way you can.

What would you add?