What I found was a rising generation of elite leaders who bring wonderful new gifts to the table – more empathy than their predecessors, more worldliness, more pragmatism for an angry, ideological age. But I also found my generation of young leaders paralyzed, hesitant, and unwilling stick their necks out and lead on the big questions of our time: how to build a more equitable and sustainable capitalism, how to manage the transition to a post-Western world, how to extend prosperity to developing countries without pushing the planet over the brink.
This generation is distinct from its predecessors in demonstrating new ways of leading: less top down and more lateral; less by command than by catalysis. Its members tend to believe that change is made by bringing out the best in others. It is also less ideological and dogmatic, and more empirical and pragmatic than the generation now in power. Its religion is not party or, frankly, religion, but rather “impact.”
This generation feels pressure to make a difference in the world, and is comfortable using the levers of business, public policy and civil society to do so. And they tend not to be satisfied with small, everyday impact. “For my Dad, it would be his patients,” one child of a doctor told me, when asked about definitions of impact. “For me, it’s providing health care to benefit the largest amount of people.”
But strange anxieties are getting in the way of these ambitions – none more prominently than something called FOMO. It is the “fear of missing out,” and it has been written about by others (including in an article about SXSW last year) as a phenomenon caused by social media. These media show them all the cool places they could be and cool things they could be doing, which always seem better than where they now are. However, my research shows that FOMO is leaking out of the technology realm and becoming a defining ethic of a new generation."
My name is Samuel. I am frequently accused by my colleagues at CNN of being “such a millennial!”
This is quickly followed by a middle-aged explanation of why having computers, cell phones and internet at my millennial fingertips has made me and my generation so fast paced in everything we do and expect.
I think calling us “millennials” makes it easier for someone born in the 1960s to highlight the fact they are 20 years my senior. They may say it with a smile, but we both know it’s not a compliment.
They call me “impatient” with “outlandish expectations” and “inflated self-esteem” – I call it unapologetic ambition; it’s about knowing what you want and going after it full throttle.
What they fail to see is that we’re aware of our differences."