Millennial Leadership in schools

Pollie Massey recently wrote an article for Forbes, which looked at the changing face of leadership within the business world.  Massey notes that  Millennials (born between 1980 and 2004) make up one third of the US workforce at the moment, and that figures is set to increase to 50% by 2020.  At the moment, Baby Boomers and Generation X members are heading up these organisations, with the Millennials performing entry to mid-level tasks; clearly this will change as our workplaces are flooded with Millennials and members of Generation Z.  The UK picture is reflected in the following graphic, courtesy of



The picture is not entirely dissimilar in UK schools – the vast majority of senior leaders are still Baby Boomers or members of Generation X (including me) – and according to a number of reports we will be facing a significant shortfall of leaders in schools by 2022.  One such report is found here, and interestingly it touches on the same themes of diversity as Pollie’s article.  There are numerous analyses about why such a crisis is looming, not least the continually changing expectations of a variety of Governments and examination boards, pressure of work, and media portrayal of teachers.  I have been in this profession for 19 years (which explains why I am a member of Generation X of course), and there are some good suggestions in the School Leadership Challenge 2022 article, including recruiting more BAME groups, increasing the number of women in senior leadership roles, and a ‘shift of culture’ which includes identifying and mentoring potential leaders in a much more tactical way.  None of which I disagree with.

However the thing about a ‘shift of culture’ is – it already shifts all by itself, especially as Millennials and Generation Z teachers appear in increasing numbers.    These teachers bring a whole different attitude to work and life – they are digital natives, or even ‘technoholics’ – expecting digital platforms to simply work for them all of the time, exactly as they expect, and entirely comfortable in digital worlds.  Their attitude towards their career is much more two-way – Millennials are happy to work ‘with’ a school, not necessarily ‘for’ the school.  Members of Generation Z will flit between schools, industries and countries – this is not disloyalty, it is simply the way things are for them.    This is in stark contrast to current school leaders, many of whom are loyal to a particular school, or at least to a career within teaching itself.

(On a separate note, the students we are currently teaching have needs that one could argue are not being fully met by the contents of their lessons alone; needs that are reflected in a number of reports such as this one, but that is a topic I will return to in a separate post)

As Massey notes, Millennials place great value on relationships (online or offline), so any coaching  and mentoring programmes need to account for this.  She also notes that Millennials will bring different, innovative perspectives to organisations – they may well end up reimagining the entire organisation given time.  (they have time of course – much more than we do). Finally, Millennials expect there to be an authenticity and transparency to what the organisation is doing amongst the community – this is a vital element for any school, and one that is frequently overlooked by Baby boomers and members of Generation X.

Only by recognising this shift in culture, this inevitable shift that is happening now, and that will continue to accelerate whether my generation likes it or not, will we be able to prepare school leaders for 2022 and beyond.  The future, as always, could be very bright indeed – driven by the next generation, with plenty of mindful prompting and mentoring from generations such as mine.

The full report pertaining to the School Leadership Challenge 2022 can be found here.



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