It has been well documented that my generation wants to live a life with meaning and purpose. Do a Google search for “millennials and purpose,” and you’ll get around 985,000 results (in case you’re wondering, that’s less than the Powerball drawing you didn’t win).

Yes, we want to work in a place that has a purpose. Social brands like Toms are appealing to us, and we easily latch on to causes that resonate with us.

But when it comes to the people we follow, especially at work, what is one of the things we look for?



Better yet, we want logical intentionality.

Doing things without a compelling purpose does not interest us. Knowing the “what” is great, and going into to great detail on the “what” is fine too. But if you want to really connect with millennials, then your “why” has to be incredibly compelling.

A compelling “why” is where many leaders struggle, not just those who lead millennials. In previous generations, the boss assumed people would follow every command simply because of the presumed power of the title. Over time, that model has begun to erode, and now it is all but extinct.

Defining a “why” forces a leader to determine the real motivation behind something. This kind of reflection may reveal flaws in the plan, or worse, flaws in the leader.

What do we as millennials look for in a good why? Here are 3 examples of what we (usually unknowingly) look for.

1. It can serve the greater good.


It is well known that millennials are active in social justice projects. We buy TOMS shoes not because they offer incredible support or durability; instead, we buy TOMS shoes because we know that a kid in a developing nation will have a pair of shoes. Being purposeful should include some level of thoughtfulness in how society can be made better.

2. It can tell a story. 


We have grown up with stories. Since many of us had our childhood in the 90s, we remember watching Toy Story, Lion King, and Aladdin until the VHS would not play anymore. We still get a little teary-eyed when Mufasa dies in The Lion King or when Andy goes to college in Toy Story 3. Major brands have discovered the power of story in their marketing and corporate decisions, and millennials are responding to these efforts. Let your decisions tell a story of who you are. Do you use that pen because your grandpa gave it to you? Tell us. We want to know.

[Tweet “People follow leaders who daily connect to a great story.”]

3. It can demonstrate thoughtfulness. 


When I say thoughtful, I do not mean that you write a greeting card for every holiday or moment in our lives. Instead, I mean that how you live and lead demonstrates that you care about making intentional decisions. When you make intentional decisions, it shows that you have spent time thinking. It shows that you care about what you say and do, and it reflects a deeper self-awareness than many currently possess.


This is not an exhaustive list, but the implications here can be powerful for any leader or organization who cares about connecting with millennials.

And when you live and lead with this kind of intentionality, pretty soon all generations will follow you.