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Millennials — those born after 1980 — are often thought of as a self-centered generation, not highly motivated by the opportunity for hard work and financial gain.  They want what they want on their terms, or so the misunderstanding goes.

Diagram of life balanceSo who is promoting this cynical view of “the next generation”?  Baby Boomers, more than likely, with some help from Generation X, those born from 1960 to 1980, who are active, balanced, happy, and family oriented, as opposed to the Baby Boomers who have become known as the consumption, me-first generation.  I know, because I have previously written, on several occasions,  that Millennials just don’t get it when it comes to understanding the ways of the business world and the hard choices that must be made in order to thrive. 

Actually they do.

As time passes, and the earliest members of the Millennial club emerge as future leaders, they are entering my executive search radar screen.  It has been a nice surprise once I stripped away the preconceived notions about who they really are.

I am finding Millennials more interested in a quality of life with a high degree of personal fulfillment.  They want to make a difference with their lives and with their work.  They want to give back.  What they do not want to do is to get trapped in corporate structure that does not embrace the values they hold dear.  Therefore, it is logical that the consumption generation, the takers, which have done a fairly good job screwing up the economy and our moral compass, would misunderstand this age cohort through the distorted Baby Boomer lens.

The good news for business, and our nation as a whole, is that the Millennials are turning away from the money and possessions are king mentality and looking for industries that serve to better mankind.  Like healthcare, according to several recent studies.  Given the challenges that our industry faces, this true servant-leadership generation will be a welcome addition.

Those who study generational changes in attitudes and values have hit on an important point.  This group, more than any recent group of future leaders, is focused on values and making a positive mark on society. 

For healthcare leaders who, in the near future, will face unbelievable pressures to change, having a crew of the best and brightest Millennials will provide a surprising market advantage.