Obama Generation Continues to Make Waves

Generation Y begins to show sure—if just a bit different—leadership.


An upside to all that is generation Y's entrepreneurial streak. Combined with millennials' tech savvy, the same confidence that's irking managers is creating wunderkinder like Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg or WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg, both 25. "The value system in America says you should be in an office from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day, in khaki pants at your cubicle. That's not necessarily effectiveness," says New York City's Maegan Carberry, 29, who left her journalism job for a more patchwork path of blogging for sites like the Huff ington Post, cohosting a radio program for Blog Talk Radio, founding the microblog Truu Confessions, and writing a book on millennial communication. "We want to do things differently."

Like the desire to buck tradition, some millennial qualities can be a double-edged sword. Experts often point out the generation's intense collaborative impulse, born out of years of team projects at school. That's good for building consensus and communities, they say, but can be an obstacle to leadership, which often requires making a quick, firm decision on one's own.

It's no secret where the impulses attributed to generation Y come from. And that includes the confidence and the refusal to settle for anything less than their dreams that create not only millennial entrepreneurs but activists and politicians, too. "They didn't just hatch from pods like this," Orrell says. "People wonder why they got this generation that's kind of saying, 'Well, yeah, we are special.' It's because everyone's been telling them that."

The bigger question is whether millennials can leverage their qualities and become effective leaders. If the young leaders emerging in the civic and corporate worlds alike prove anything, though, it's that their elders shouldn't be worrying. Millennials may work differently from previous generations; they may advocate for different causes; they may even expect respect earlier. But they want to improve the world around them, and, experts say, they have the confidence, and many of the tools, that are needed to do so.

  • See photos of the Obamas behind the scenes.
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