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Book review: Leading – The Millennial Way

While containing useful insight, the role of faith wasn't discussed enough, says Abi Jarvis

Leading – The Millennial Way is a recent book from Simon Barrington and Rachael Luetchford of leadership consultancy Forge Leadership. The book builds on research into millennial leadership development released by the company in late 2018.

Using the research and Simon’s extensive leadership experience, the book investigates major traits of millennial leaders and considers how these traits can be considered benefits, rather than the stereotypical negative assumptions often made about them. For example, the authors challenge the idea that millennials aren’t committed to their work because they tend to leave by 5.30pm.

Instead, they suggest that millennials are committed to all aspects of their lives, and the healthy lifestyle this creates should be celebrated. Leaders will be less stressed and more relaxed because they have spent evenings with family and friends.

While the book is targeted at both millennials in leadership and those leading millennials, it is the latter that will find most benefit in reading it. Chapter 10 in particular has some great advice on how organisations can change their culture to both benefit millennials, and benefit from millennials. For senior leaders seeking to attract millennials to their company – and keep them there – the book has some helpful insight and tips on application.

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When writing about the original research, I expressed my hope that the book would analyse why millennials might act and think in these ways. What has caused the move from individual celebration to team celebration, or the increase in short-term job length expectations? Sadly (for me at least!) the book does not go in this direction, focusing instead on how millennials lead and how organisations can create a culture conducive to this leadership.

The book has been written to attract both a Christian and secular audience and thus there is little insight from a faith perspective.

I also would have been intrigued to see some suggestions of how millennials can alter their own behaviours in order to work with those of older generations. While it is encouraging to see a more positive picture of millennials than is often presented, it is true that, like all characteristics, some millennial behaviours have negative potential as well as positive potential. 

Both must be addressed in order to truly understand how millennials lead. There is much that millennials can learn from previous generations. Indeed, work-life balance’ or whole-life balance’ is something that millennials are only able to take for granted because the previous generation realised the dangers of over-work.

The book has been written to attract both a Christian and secular audience and thus there is little insight from a faith perspective. In fact, the research notes on page 167 suggest that the Christian faith shared by the majority, if not all, of the research participants had nothing to do with their leadership. 

The original research suggested that Christian millennials feel a deep tension between wanting to apply biblical standards to leadership and a strong desire for approval, which can make speaking biblical truths difficult. It also mentioned the key role many millennials said their church had played in their leadership development. The secular nature of the book means that this major element of Christian millennial leadership is not explored.

My own experience is that Christian millennials are deeply committed to the idea that their faith affects their leadership. This is one of the most exciting things about our own Public Leadership course for leaders in their 20s and 30s. While, no doubt, many leadership traits are contextual to generation and are less affected by their faith, it seems a missed opportunity not to devote a section of the book to the relationship between faith and leadership.

Ultimately, the book has some good insights into millennial leadership, which greatly benefits from the research undertaken. It has some helpful advice for senior leaders who wish to make their organisation more attractive to millennials. And, for millennials who are less introspective and do not fully understand how and why they lead, the book may help them to understand their own leadership better.

About the author

Abi Jarvis is the public leadership coordinator at the Evangelical Alliance, seeking to equip Christians with the skills and confidence to be leaders in the places where God has called them. She has a BA in Ancient History and a MSc in Political Communication. Abi loves going to the theatre, watches too many American TV dramas and somehow became responsible for daily office exercises despite her hatred of all things sporty. Much to her dismay, she ticks the box for pretty much every stereotypical feature of a PK - a pastor's kid.

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