Original Research

Millennial leaders and leadership styles displayed in the workplace

Carolyn Easton, Renier Steyn
South African Journal of Business Management | Vol 54, No 1 | a3139 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajbm.v54i1.3139 | © 2023 Carolyn Easton, Renier Steyn | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 23 January 2022 | Published: 24 February 2023

About the author(s)

Carolyn Easton, Graduate School of Business Leadership, University of South Africa, Midrand, South Africa
Renier Steyn, Graduate School of Business Leadership, University of South Africa, Midrand, South Africa


Purpose: The aim of this research was to test the assumption of differences between leadership styles adopted by leaders across generations, as perceived by their subordinates, on the premise that millennials hold different values from other generations, and that these values, in turn, have an impact on their leadership styles.

Design/methodology/approach: This research was conducted in South Africa, in a variety of organisations, and by sampling employees across three generations, namely millennials, Generation X and baby boomers. Cross-sectional data were collected with an instrument based on the Pearce leadership typology of leadership styles. After confirming reliability and general factorial validity, mean scores were compared using analyses of variance.

Findings/results: The results of the study found practically significant differences between millennial leaders and Generation X leaders in the extent to which they apply empowering and transformational leadership styles, as perceived by their subordinates. In absolute terms, millennial leaders display less leadership behaviour than do those of Generation X, with regard to these leadership approaches.

Practical implications: Organisations involved in the development of millennial leaders should be aware that interventions should not blindly align to the stereotypes associated with this generation. Further research is also needed to determine which leadership styles are effective with millennial leaders.

Originality/value: The millennial generation has emerged in the workplace as the new leadership pipeline, yet there appears to be a lack of research on how millennials want to lead. This study contributes to a nuanced understanding of and improved development of the millennial generation leaders.


generations; leadership styles; directive leadership; empowering leadership; transactional leadership; transformational leadership; millennial leaders


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