Growing Gen-Y Leaders

Why you need to give your millennials real leadership responsibilities.

For the first time ever, IT organizations are staffed by four distinct generations of workers—the Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, and Generations X and Y. And while most leadership development attention is focused on handing the baton to Gen X standouts, most of the anxiety is about managing Gen Y.

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2009 Ones to Watch Winners

2009 Ones to Watch Judges

"There's this perceived technology edge that young people have and this sense that they've learned to live differently because of it," says Dr. Karen Sobel-Lojeski, visiting assistant professor at Stony Brook University's Department of Technology and Society.

And there may be leadership deficits that an organization's youngest workers need to overcome. "Their ability to multitask, while certainly useful, could prove a weakness as they are asked to focus on business or personnel problems that are not easily solved in a short time frame," says Ones to Watch honoree Risa Fogel, formerly of Realogy and now at Cushman & Wakefield.

Nonetheless, Ones to Watch honorees—charged with nurturing their own successors from among the millennials—see promise. "This generation can have a significant impact on the continued convergence of the IT organization with the business," says Gen Xer and Ones to Watch honoree Dee Waddell of Amtrak. "They will become the technology-savvy business leaders of the future."

"Generation Y leaders could have a positive influence on the culture of a workplace based on their enthusiasm for friends and collaboration," adds Fogel. "Their expectations for immediate results may result in great innovation, particularly since they don't have the same imaginary boundaries as some earlier generations."

CIOs and their managers must develop the next generation of leaders "in much the same way we did 20 years ago by giving them practical experience right out there on the battlefield," says F. Warren McFarlan, professor of business administration at Harvard Business School.

And now is the perfect time to hand real responsibilities and meaningful leadership experiences to Gen Y as CIOs are tasked with doing more with fewer staff members.

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