Why do you get out of bed in the morning – and why the hell should anyone care? – Why Care About Personal Leadership and Purpose in the New Working Generation

Why do you get out of bed in the morning – and why the hell should anyone care?

Why Care About Personal Leadership and Purpose in the New Working Generation

By Dunya Ressang & Eline Krommenhoek


Well… Why do you get out of bed every morning? It’s kind of  a vulnerable question to ask someone, especially at work. There is a high chance you will get a superficial response. So why ask?

If we look at corporates, it’s obvious that we don’t live in a society where vulnerability and openness are actively promoted at work. Possibly because of this we see more and more companies struggling to retain the younger generation. Yes, it is true that millennials change jobs frequently. A Gallup (2016) research showed that millennials change jobs as much as four times before the age of 32, twice as much as the generation before. The same research showed that 71% of millennials are disengaged at work and 21% changed jobs in the past year.

We also see that our youngest working generation belongs to the age group with the highest stress and burnout statistics, when compared to other generations. And yet we hear comments and broad generalizations about this generation such as, “Those youngsters have no work-ethic” and “Aren’t they a bit overreacting with their stress-issues?”.

We do not want to address the question why this is, but rather to look at what we can do and what we can change within the framework of our current reality. We feel that instead of making generalized comments or criticisms we should investigate this problem and seek solutions. Whether  we like it or not, we have to keep in mind that by 2030, 75% of the workforce will consist of workers from the millennial generation. We need to better prepare companies for the upcoming change.

One of the main reasons why we see the millennials as vastly different from the generations before,  is the fact that within their formative years they’ve had to adjust to the exponential growth in technology and globalization. As technology is still developing at an increased pace we have to acknowledge the possible effect it has had (and still has) on a generation that has been brought up within this time of exponential growth. Think, for example, of the infinite choice this age group has in a life phase where choices form the heart of their experience. What study or job do I want? Where do I want to live?. Millennials can choose from hundreds of studies and jobs around the globe. All the options create a disoriented feeling of unpredictability. Imagine the impact the introduction of social media has had on the younger generation accentuating this unpredictability. It is so very easy to compare one’s life to those of others and to feel the pressure of your choices. Social media is an influential tool for creating an alternative version of reality for many. The reality instead is, of course, for many much less pretty, less perfect, than it seems on social media. However, seeing all these pictures on social media and comparing them to our own lives, creates an unrealistic expectation pattern. Social media has had a definite impact on the younger generations as has been shown in numerous scholarly articles like Chua et al. (2016) and Mabe et al. (2014) to name a few worrisome examples.

With a focus on these broad issues alone, would it not be worthwhile for a (commonly older) HR Director to give guidance to this generation from an inward perspective?

Join us for the following thought exercise:

For Millennials, especially when entering the working world, the development of personal leadership is essential. Why? As Allison Osborn said in her TEDxOxbridge presentation: “The landscape of the working world has changed dramatically and the tools we give this generation to navigate this world have not”. This statement hits home on many levels. While we have to come to terms with the fact that this is the reality of society as it is, we can also shift our focus towards possible ways to navigate ourselves within this reality. This will not only provide direction for Millennials, but will also help us form a foundation of reference for many generations to come.

So let us ask this question again: “Why do you get out of bed in the morning, and why the hell should anyone care?”. This question brings us to the essence of something we call “Transcendent Purpose”. Can you formulate for yourself that ‘dot’ on the horizon and can you find a reason to do it that transcends your own ego? This ultimate, transcendent goal will bring a foundation for you to activate your own personal leadership. In other words: in a chaotic world with infinite choices, there is a real need to identify your direction. Personal leadership can be seen as a compass, where you can guide yourself in that direction. There is a need to go from external referenced to internal referenced in order to be able to balance oneself in an increasingly fast paced world.

We think it’s important for companies to acknowledge the need of the younger generation to find purpose and meaning across all the dimensions of their lives. Their need to understand personal leadership. Their need to slow down in order to keep up. And yes, this requires vulnerability. So let us extend an invitation to try this out; an invitation to millennials and their managers. Begin an open conversation on this topic within a safe environment, without underlying consequences. Because if you can co-create with your millennial employee work that is meaningful for them you not only improve employee retention, but also increase trust and reduce the need for managerial control. Why? Because together you  tap into a source of motivation that is intrinsic, that goes way beyond the power of any monetary incentive. Especially if you are an employer that cares about the cause your young employee is going for, it can shift the working relationship from purely transactional to truly transformational.

We acknowledge that finding true purpose can be a lengthy process. But for a generation that has been overwhelmed since childhood by exponential growth in technological advances and globalisation, this sense of direction will bring a much needed focus that will make all the difference. As much as we would have liked to write a full book about this topic, we see the value of introducing snippets of our thinking – just enough to whet your appetite. We hope that you will want more. Write to us and let’s have a cup of coffee together.


OPUS Research is the intervention-based research team of the RedZebra Group. It engages a global community of (business) leaders, practitioners and thought leaders in a process of humble inquiry, co-creation and experimentation to develop together a possible new paradigm of leadership and organisation.

The authors Dunya Ressang (Consultant at RedZebra Group) and Eline Krommenhoek (Board Member De Maatschappij Rotterdam) are affiliated with the Millennial Journey. This is a RedZebra Group program that specializes in the millennial generation; focussing on the development of personal leadership and purpose. For more information about this program or to contact the authors, please visit: www.redzebragroup.com or sent an e-mail to dunya@redzebragroup.com.

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Adkins, A. (n.d.). Millennials: The Job-Hopping Generation. Gallup. Retrieved from: https://www.gallup.com/workplace/231587/millennials-job-hopping-generation.aspx

Chua, T. H. H., & Chang, L. (2016). Follow me and like my beautiful selfies: Singapore teenage girls’ engagement in self-presentation and peer comparison on social media. Computers in Human Behavior55, 190-197.

Mabe, A. G., Forney, K. J., & Keel, P. K. (2014). Do you “like” my photo? Facebook use maintains eating disorder risk. International Journal of Eating Disorders47(5), 516-523.

Osborn, A., (2017, June 23). Why are millennials so stressed? Is it Quarter Life Crisis?, TEDxOxbridge. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cwASai4hTZU