Millennial leaders are in luck—never before has the concept of leadership been more creative and robust. Technology has turned traditional leadership models upside down, forcing rigid hierarchies to become obsolete.
"Globalization, new technologies and changes in how companies create value and interact with customers have sharply reduced the efficacy of a purely directive, top-down model of leadership," Harvard Business School professor Boris Groysberg and communications consultant Michael Slind point out in a Harvard Business Review article.
Today's leaders are energizers, forces of nature and true masters in the art of humility. "Smart leaders today, we have found, engage with employees in a way that resembles an ordinary person-to-person conversation more than it does a series of commands from on high," Groysberg and Slind write.
Los Angeles entrepreneur Michael Sueoka is one emerging leader who constantly strives to reach new heights. His motivation? Curiosity. "I love exploring new places and trying new things. I love traveling, and I love meeting new people," Sueoka says. "I try to push myself outside my comfort zone so that I can grow as a person."
This desire to learn has pushed him to co-found three companies—a design agency (SueyCreative), an online commercial real estate platform (CurbStreet) and an online marketing firm (FreshRankings). "The world inspires me with so many new ideas," he says. "I love creating value from simple ideas."
Believe in Connection Karma
Between building his businesses, exploring his city and learning new skills, Sueoka finds time to connect with his local community. The payoff? Connection karma—the idea that success travels through peer feedback loops.
"I get involved with as many startups and local organizations as possible and offer to help however I can," Sueoka says. "No matter the need—from general business practices to UX design and even grunt work, I'm always there to help. I believe that if I help the local community that it will benefit everybody and in turn eventually help me."
He's motivated by a desire to add value to the world. "I want to see others succeed, and I love instilling confidence in others," he says. "I love seeing things grow."
Look Beyond Yourself
What can millennial leaders learn from Sueoka? You may be smart—but you're not always going to be right. Trust your judgment, but be humble. It's important to learn from the community around you that's helping you grow.
"I may not know everything, but I give my peers feedback based on my perspective," Sueoka says. "As a result, I get to experience lots of different personal and professional situations that many others may not have the opportunity to experience or feel. It makes me smarter."
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As a leader, you're in the spotlight and have the potential to make a direct impact on your employees. "I think it's very important for leaders to lead by example. I love seeing a manager or boss get their hands dirty or get in the trenches with their employees," Sueoka emphasizes. "There is nothing more inspiring. Leading by example will gain you ultimate respect."
Walk the Talk
Millennial leaders need to do more than talk to succeed. They need to build. They need to execute—even if failure is a possibility.
"Complacency and stagnancy will hold you back," Sueoka says. "There's always something that you can be doing to make progress and to keep moving forward. I'm a big advocate of taking action. I've heard so many people with so many great ideas, but that doesn't really mean anything. It only means something if you take action."
Whatever you do, keep moving forward. Keep exploring, and let curiosity propel you ahead.
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Ritika is a San Francisco-based blogger who writes about trends in business, Internet culture and marketing. She's inspired by the intersection between technology, entrepreneurship and sociology.
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