• Benjamin Windle

Ladders vs Circles - why a culture of collaboration matters so much to Millennials

The time-honored structures, languages, facilities, and approaches from the past won’t work today.


It’s a different world.


Say Hello to Millennials and Gen Z.


A new generation is here, and they think, relate, and live differently than any other generation before them. I am optimistic about this new generation. They are hopeful, educated, and believe they can change the world.


Generational literacy and intelligence are fundamental to communicating with each generation to understand its needs, especially those of the Millennials. The ability to understand and relate to multiple generations at one time is more crucial than ever before.

Millennials are optimists, talented, creative, and collaborators. They are also driven by a thirst for significance. They are relational,and have an inbuilt desire for authenticity.


Don’t buy into the negativity against Millennials; they are remarkable. They are world-changers and hard workers. 


In other words, this is a generation to love and be inspired by.


“To handle this new world, we need generational intelligence. The reason we struggle with other generations is not that they are ‘the problem.’ The reason we struggle with other generations is that we don’t understand them.”

Generational IQ: Christianity Isn't Dying, Millennials Aren't the Problem, and the Future Is Bright


The common misconception about Millennials is that they are entitled basement-dwellers who are content to let their best years slip past them.

Nothing could be further from the truth.


With the advent of the 21stcentury, we are facing a mega-shift in culture, church attendance, and religious beliefs. Everything is changing at a dizzying rate. In the midst of this metamorphosis, we have a generation that will change the way entire industries operate. Millennials are already redefining the world in which they want to live.


In the coming years, Millennials will soon make up the vast majority of the global workforce. By 2030, Millennials will represent 75% of the global workforce.


Here are some idea out of my latest book which is available on Amazon – Eight Innovations to Leading Millennials.


Relational Leadership Style

For Millennials, leadership is not about power.


Millennials are fundamentally changing the way we understand leadership. Millennials follow relationship not authority.


Millennials no longer respond to power and authority in and of itself. The days of “because I said so” and “do as I say, not as I do” are vanishing.


Authoritative power does not connect with Millennials—relationship does.


“Power is decaying. To put it simply, power no longer buys as much as it did in the past.”

The End of Power: From Boardrooms to Battlefields and Churches to States, Why Being in Charge Isn't What It Used to Be


A position of authority should not become an authoritarian leadership style. In his book, The 5 Levels of Leadership, John Maxwell relegates position/authority to the lowest level of leadership.


In the Boomer generation, leading from authority may not have been great leadership, but the hierarchy in organizations was an accepted norm. Today, not only is authoritative leadership ineffective—it is fatal to a culture.


Lead from authority but not with authority .

Millennial leadership style is relational and strategic. Leadership requires both skill and strategy, but Millennial leadership is about creating connections with people. The saying “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” is truer today than it ever has been before.


Leaders must first work on the relationship and then apply strategy.

Ask yourself this key question: how would I lead if I had no organizational authority? If you consider that your people didn’t have to do what you said, you would have to rely more on relationship and communication.


Millennials respond to the relational leader.


Collaborative Organizational Structure

Many organizational structures in the past have been built like a ladder. Decisions seem to rest with people at the top of the organization, while others at the lower rungs serve to implement these decisions.





Millennials are team-oriented and collaborative, and resist structure. Lead pastor and college professor Dr. Frank Damazio summarized this trend: “Millennials are mercurial, and Boomers are linear; Millennials are fluid.”


Millennials resist most traditional structures because they were raised in a learning environment that embraced collaboration.


Evolve from a hierarchal organization of ladders to circles of collaboration.



Ladders represent command and control, top-down organizations that dictate to subordinates.  


Those at the entry level of organizations, the lowest ladder rungs, are often given seemingly meaningless tasks to do, withlittle or no input in the process of how these could be most effectively done or changed. As a result, disengagement and disillusionment become the norm.


In the minds of Millennials, the ladder style of organizational management leaves much to be desired.



By contrast, circle-style organization shows teams within teams, with defined leadership but also specific outcomes.


Listening is the best way to reach Millennials who want to be involved and be heard.

Have a conversation with Millennials, and you’ll discover that they want to devote themselves to a cause. They want to work from a place of significance, where they can be relevant and leave an impact on their world.


Reaching Millennials must go deeper than surface level. Go deep by creating a structure that respects diverse opinions, rewards collaboration, and encourages fluid work processes.



Create an environment of training and mentoring

Millennials are hungry: they want to learn.


In a PwC’s report, Millennials at work, two of the top three factors that make an organization an attractive employer were ‘opportunities for career progression’ and ‘excellent training/development programs.’


“Millennials are on the path to becoming the most educated generation in America's history. The Millennials understand the power behind a mentor. That is why we want one. Three out of four Millennials would like a leader to come beside them and teach them leadership skills.

Indeed, another moniker that might fit the Millennials is "the learning generation." When we asked them to respond to the statement, "I have a great appetite for learning," the results were impressive. An overwhelming 95 percent of the Millennials answered the question positively.”

The Millennials


For more information, please check out my book on Amazon.

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© 2020 Benjamin Windle