What is generation Y looking for in leadership? About the ambitions and preferences

  • Charlotte Christiane Stroink (Student)

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


This study investigates what Generation Y, also called Millennials, is looking for in leadership with a particular focus on their preferences in leadership styles, and their ambition for leadership positions. Employing a mixed research method, including a quantitative survey and qualitative expert interviews, the research addresses the central question: "What is Generation Y looking for in leadership?" in the context of the digital age. The results indicated that while Millennials are always available and connected, they seek for a purpose and a greater impact in their lives. The findings highlight the strong-minded character of Generation Y, yet they also suggest that their impatience clashes with their self-confidence, particularly in a working environment. Furthermore, the study identifies friendly colleagues, intellectual challenges, and career options as prior workplace values. Communication is recognized as the foundation of the leader-follower relationship among this generation. Regarding their preferences, the transformational leadership style is revealed to be the most favoured leadership style of Millennials, while the authentic leadership style is considered to be the most effective. Overall, transformational, authentic, and participative leadership styles dominate the ranking of preference and effectiveness for Millennials. However, the two research methods concluded different results regarding Millennials' ambition for leadership. The quantitative analysis reveals high ambitions for leadership positions, particularly among men envisioning leading companies. Conversely, the qualitative results depict Generation Y as a determined and demanding group with low ambitions for leadership roles. In general, this research highlights the need to review leadership practices to accommodate the leadership roles of Generation Y. In the digital age and the rapidly changing environment of the 21st century leaders and organisations need to adapt to the mindset and expectations of Millennials. Their distinct priorities revolve around purpose, a greater impact and achieving a work-life balance. Consequently, these findings can help emerging and established leaders in gaining a better understanding of the leadership needs, preferences, and ambitions of Generation Y.
Date of Award29 Jan 2024
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Universidade Católica Portuguesa
SupervisorFernando Ilharco (Supervisor)


  • Generation Y
  • Millennials
  • Leadership
  • Leadership style
  • Leadership preferences
  • Leadership ambitions
  • Digital natives
  • Digital age


  • Mestrado em Ciências da Comunicação

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