Mindset of a Millennial Board Chair

André Withers | October 02, 2023

One unexpected realization from my search work is that more and more board members and board chairs are now my age. Enter the free-thinking, avocado-eating, sneaker-wearing millennial leaders! This shift in board composition is worth noting and promoting. Millennials, after all, are the first to be considered digital natives, which means they are generally more facile with social media than prior generations of leaders and better at multitasking. At work, according to LinkedIn Talent Blog Contributor Lydia Abbott,

“Millennials need to feel like what they are doing is important, are the most curious generation in the workforce today, care deeply about diversity, and value a relatable, straightforward communication style.” 

While not all characteristics attributed to millennials are theirs and theirs alone, nor are they universal, they are all useful tools for successful board management. What can you expect from your millennial board chair, and what will they expect of you?

  • Active Listening: Millennials typically value authenticity and communication without bureaucratese. And they expect to be heard. Practice being fully present in conversation, ask open-ended questions, listen to understand, and withhold judgment or advice. During discussions, objectively validate each other’s contributions and demonstrate respect for their ideas.
  • Technology: Get comfortable with social media and be ready to collect, analyze, and share user generated content (UGC). Recognize that millennials are digital natives; seek a working relationship that utilizes technology as a powerful way to engage with one another. Use collaborative platforms for communication, document sharing, and decision-making processes.
  • Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging: Millennials understand the value of diversity when it comes to organizations. Analytical, innovative, and objective thinking is improved with a mix of people from various racial, ethnic, cultural, and generational backgrounds contributing to the outcome. Embrace diversity in all its forms and encourage open discussions on inclusion, equity, and belonging. The most talented team is the most diverse team.
  • Impact-Driven Strategies: Millennials are passionate about creating meaningful impact and value a results-oriented approach. Be sure board initiatives align with the school’s mission thereby allowing you to deliver meaningful outcomes.
  • Authenticity: Foster relationships characterized by open communication and transparency. Millennial board members appreciate regular updates, data-driven reports, and the opportunity to voice their opinions openly.
  • Agile Decision-Making: Traditional hierarchical decision-making may not resonate with millennials. Design processes that allow for effective and efficient responses to emerging issues and challenges. Consider current board committees and determine if they fit your current needs or do they need to be adjusted, redefined, or eliminated.
  • Communal Responsibility: Millennials are keenly attuned to the community that they serve. Current issues as well as traditions are salient to them. Elevating civic engagement and community impact aligns with their values and their leadership.

As generations continue to evolve, ongoing efforts to adapt and engage with diverse viewpoints and workstyles will be the key to thriving in an ever-changing and increasingly competitive independent school world. Champion the power of generational diversity on your board. Millennials are ready to take the reins and make meaningful contributions to our independent school boards. Use and embrace the skills and qualities they bring to the table!

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