arrogance or ambition?

“So, what are you wanting to do, what’s the end goal?” – I love when a conversation with someone new gets to this point. I know I’ve found a kindred spirit, when after the smalltalk and elevator pitches, someone straight down the line asks, “so where you even going”. Sometimes (depending on what day it is) my answer can change, but ultimately, like any good goal oriented person, of course I have something I’m working towards, but I find myself not always feeling compelled to disclose. But why would that be? Shouldn’t I be confident in where I’m going, proud to be ambitious? Well, yes I should be, but is that always the way it’s perceived?

In the Deloitte 2015 Millennial survey – it was identified that what we are seeing with Millennials in the workforce is a big gap between perception and reality, on a whole scale of different fronts. In particular, the one I found most interesting as a millennial in the workforce was that out of all Millennials in the workforce, 53% said they had aspirations to become the leader or most senior executive within their current workplace, but further to this that only 24% of these would rate their leadership skills as strong (with a notable gender gap within this statistic when further broken down). My observations, in layman’s terms:

1.       A little over half of Millennials within an organisation have aspirations to become the most senior leader.

2.       Of this half, only a quarter feel they have strong leadership skills.

So if you had 10 Millennials working in your organisation, 5 of these are going to want the top job, but of these 5 only 1 of them would feel confident enough to say they had strong leadership skills.

For me this poses a great big question, if you’ve got 5 young people saying they want to work their way into a senior leadership position, what’s not happening to give 4 of them the confidence to feel they could actually achieve that? Cue the teleprompter, it’s time for my thoughts.

Millennials seem to have a bit of a reputation for being arrogant. I remember the first time I told my Dad just what I wanted to do, which probably came out something along the lines of “well I just want to change the world” – he did one of those scoffs reminiscent of that iconic Australian movie line “Tell ‘im he’s dreamin”. And further to that when my Dad heard that in a job interview I had also expressed my career ambition looked mildly horrified, proclaiming “you can’t walk in there telling them that”. I find this reflective of this attitude of Millenials being perceived as arrogant, when for me my intentions were never that of arrogance, but ambition. Sure, we grew up in an era where our parents were telling us that we could do anything, but I really don’t believe that this bred unnecessary arrogance. I think what this did was made us dream big! But now we have the same people who were telling us to dream big, reflecting that they find our generation arrogant? Yep, this dichotomy is getting blurry.

As with so many other preconceived notions of young people in the workforce, I think that this needs to be looked at objectively, let’s step back and have a look at the whole picture. Of course, we will always come across individuals who are incredible self-assured about their level of ability, but discerning genuine arrogance, from ambition and confidence is something I think we (and our workplaces) need to get better at. When harnessed correctly, what’s stopping that ambitious young person from taking your organisation to the next level? They are genuinely the future *cue inspirational music*, so rather than squash their ambition, channel it! Use that inner dialogue that they got from their mum and dad telling them they could do anything to see them do anything, with you and for you and your company.

And most importantly? Don’t roll your eyes at them when they say they want to be the next CEO – because you need them to want that! And isn’t that a declaration of loyalty? Another trait Millennials supposedly don’t have...but I’ll save that for another day.

So, what is my response going to be the next time I get asked “where am I headed?” – after this bold rant, I probably still won’t launch straight into declaring my plan to become an influential business leader marrying together the idea of business and goodwill in some form of innovative and empowering fashion, I will more than likely still go about discerning my audience and how I will be perceived if I disclose my wildest hopes and dreams. But would I like to see this change? You bet.


*You can read all about the 2015 Deloitte Millenial Survey by clicking here. But never fear, it will be mentioned many a time in my upcoming blogs!