Building Great Leaders

ELM Expert Series: How To Teach Millennials With Minute Attention Spans To Be Transformational Leaders

A decade has gone by since Millennials have begun our conquest of the job market. We now seek impactful leadership roles, and more than half of us do it for purpose.

Happiness is no longer expected only from our personal life; we want our professions to be fulfilling, too. For Millennials, the line between work and personal life is thinner. Our goal is not only to personally gain from our work, but also to be an agent of change and social impact.

It’s a far cry from the attitudes of today’s current managers. Managers continue to value the hierarchical system that got them there. Millennials, meanwhile, rate meaningful work, transformational leadership, sense of accomplishment and high pay as top priorities—regardless of organizational status.

91% of us aspire to become leaders; 63% identify our leading style as transformational with a goal of inspiring others; and 43% are motivated to lead others to empowerment.

Millennials align with transformational leadership.

Transformational leadership is a combination of strategic thinking, inspiration, strong personal skills, passion and decisiveness. Surveys have also identified that we consider career mentors, rotations and externships to be the most effective ways to develop leadership skills.

So how do businesses prepare millennials to be the leaders they want to become?

1. eLearning done right combined with a neurolearning approach has incredible potential to build the skills today’s millennial leader needs.

While millennials choose the latest tech as their top tool for impact, many eLearning programs out there are ineffective and underwhelming because they are outdated, not crafted for how learning takes place, have content that is either too condensed or seems irrelevant and volatile; and finally, they are usually standardized and non-personalized.

But, when cognitive strategies (aka neurolearning) are incorporated into modules, such as repetition, summarizing meaning, the use of imagery, reinforcement, etc., in addition to feedback and social interaction, leadership training can be an exceedingly effective way to train young leaders.

2. Businesses need to craft leadership training that supports ever-shortening attention spans and lifestyle changes.

Family structure has changed, and with it there has been an increased request for flexibility in work schedule, setting, job design and career planning. We live in an era of international connectivity and new technology allows us to be more flexible with our jobs than in the past. We want to be evaluated on our outputs and not inputs; we want our work to be valued for the product we create and not on where, when and how we produce our results. And we want our learning to reflect these changes, and be on our own time, in an easily digestible form.

The way to do this is through microlearning. Microlearning is an instructional design methodology which allows learners to receive short, easy to digest learning lessons that build upon each other over time.

Chief Learning Architect of eLearning Mind, Jack Makhlouf states, “Instead of overloading today’s already highly distracted workers, microlearning plays off of short attention spans and the power of retention through spaced out repetition of information.”

This cuts the hours of ineffective content and allows millennials to have time between training for feedback and mentorship (two factors that millennials deem as highly important to their growth).

Leadership training needs to be consistent.

One of the largest issues in today’s leadership development programs is that many are “one and done” types of training. Millennials, and any learner for that matter, need consistent training that builds upon the knowledge of the last, to be able to retain and grow needed skill sets like soft skills demanded of today’s leaders. Businesses need to make a greater commitment to their leadership programs if they want to build future leaders for their company.

Let’s end with a deeper dive into neurolearning for millennial leadership training.

Neurolearning is composed of educational technology with a rigorous fusion of visual storytelling, challenges, social interaction and first class computer programing. As such, neurolearning modules are an ideal blend of smart imagery, knowledge scaffolding, attention focusing, self-assessment, fun activities, active retrieval practice, creation of meaning, real-time interaction and tacit learning with the benefits of easy access, low budget, individualization, self pace and feedback from colleagues and experts.

Leadership training through neurolearning is highly engaging, procures deeper learning, increases motivation and retention and fosters faster recall and retrieval. It also allows experts to connect throughout the world. It makes quickly-delivered training accessible in almost any environment. Finally, most imperative to Millennials, neurolearning training offers flexibility for remote workers, diverse schedules, and disparate cohorts.

Neurolearning allows us to unify the best from one-on-one mentorship and coaching, the advantages of educational technology and the principles of adult education.

Millennials acknowledge that technology can be a great communication advantage. We enjoy the familiarity, instant feedback and swift actions of social media. The eLearning leadership program of today must combine these massive appeals with experts in leadership training, business simulations, scientific support and high-tech programming for neurolearning modules to truly transform today’s millennial leaders.

Author Bio:

Maite J. Balda, PhD
Neuroscience, Leadership, Learning Design

Maite has built her experience in the field of Cognitive Neuroscience in world-class colleges like Columbia University, Boston College, Harvard University, Universidad Pontificia of Comillas and Universidad Complutense of Madrid. She has worked with various research laboratories, collaborated with the NeuroLeadership Institute, managed an excellence and leadership program at the HR department of La Salle: Maravillas school, and has written multiple articles on education.


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Ferri-Reed, J. (2012, April). Three ways leaders can help millennials succeed. The Journal for Quality and Participation, 35(1), 18-19.

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The Millennial Leadership Survey by Virtuali October, 2014.