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Millennial Leadership Changing the Management Game

07-13-2015
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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- A decade ago, the idea of seasoned professionals being managed by someone half their age seemed like a dream to some and a nightmare for others. Today, it's becoming the new normal.

Many companies realize that younger Gen Xers and Millennials bring distinct skills to their operations -- skills that matter most in today's changing world.

"Millennials bring a unique talent in terms of their technology savvy, their ability to absorb change quickly. They're highly collaborative, they're highly flexible and these are very useful skills that companies need right now," workplace culture expert David Torrance said.

Knowledge of all things digital stands out to companies needing to compete in that arena. That helped seal the deal for Austin Kellerman, who took the job of news director at Little Rock's NBC and FOX television stations.

News Director at 31

At only 31, he was the youngest news director the station has ever hired.

"A digital push was a big part of it," Kellerman said. "That's a big push in the company right now, digital through the web, through social media. And I think social media's just one of those things that I've always been passionate about so it was something that I wanted to kind of bring in to help put my stamp on what KARK and FOX 16 would be in the future."

But bringing in someone so young to lead older employees can often be a roadblock to positive change.

"Their previous boss was a little older than I am and they walk in and, at the time, 'Here's this 31 year old and he's gonna be my boss? I've been in the business for 20 years. I should tell him what to do.' Now I didn't get anyone who said anything like that but I would imagine that's what they were thinking," Kellerman said.

Generational Shift

This generational shift is just beginning as the workplace gets younger and younger.

"It's a strategic imperative to use Millennials as leaders in the workforce because of the skills they bring," Torrance said.

Workplace culture and leadership development expert Steve Klein says this new office transition can be a smooth one as long as communication and respect are part of the relationship.

"Those younger Millennials need to help those older employees understand what its like to work with them," Klein explained. "The Baby Boomers and traditionalists need to understand that they need to let the Millennials and Gen Xers do their thing. Don't worry about how they're doing it. The bottom line, their productivity, is the most important."

Digital Leadership

Kellerman said his leadership style combines things that come naturally to him as a digital native with concepts he's learned from older employees and mentors.

"I think being a younger person, a younger manager I've always tried to approach more experience or older employees in that regard and just make sure that they understand that I value them and truly use them as a resource," Kellerman said.

Kellerman is successfully leading KARK and FOX 16 into the digital first future of news.

"Digitally our footprint is much larger, in terms of Facebook followers, Twitter followers. One interesting trend we've seen over the last few years is now people don't go to our website anymore. They come to our website through Facebook, they don't visit the homepage," Kellerman said.

The risks companies take to bring in young managers may result in growing pains at first, but it's a generation equipped to step in.

Some parting advice from the experts: Never doubt your abilities and remember there's always more to learn.

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