Employees want to work for a strong leader. As our Founder & President, Buddy Hobart, states, “Folks want to attach their wagon to a strong leadership horse.” It really is that simple. 

As we discussed in a previous blog, people quit people. The same is true on the opposite side of the coin. People look for certain qualities in leaders when deciding where to work.

With the ongoing war on talent and the mass exodus of Boomers in the workforce, attracting and retaining next-generation talent is crucial. Becoming a strong leader that appeals to said talent takes time and development. Here are three traits, backed by research, that young people look for in their prospective leaders: 


Trust is essential in any relationship – including business. It is especially important between a leader and those they are leading. If trust is not established – if it is not the foundation from which the relationship builds – the relationship will be strained. Next-generation talent, more so than ever, wants to work for someone who they can trust. These young folks want to be a part of the bigger picture in your organization. They want to believe that whoever they are following has their best interest in mind. 

From “The Global Shaper’s Survey”

Integrity/honesty is the number one trait millennials look for in a manager.

From Qualtrics and Accel Partners Survey

The number one quality to look for in a manager is “trustworthy” according to 20- to 30-year-olds.

From Great Place to Work Report “The Executive Guide to Engaging Millennials”

Our new research into the Best Workplaces for Millennials shows one key element impacts Millennial turnover by a factor of 20: a high-trust workplace culture. 

Effective Communicator 

Next-generation talent appreciates an effective communicator. More specifically, they want a leader who is open with their communication. Open communication does not merely mean being available for a conversation whenever desired. Keeping the “door open” does not make someone an effective communicator. 

In its truest form, effective communication is the ability to deliver the good and the bad in real-time. People, all generations included, want performance feedback. And they want it in a timely manner. Being open with both praise and constructive criticism is a skill that young employees look for in a strong leader.  

From “The Global Shaper’s Survey”

Effective Communicator is the third most essential trait millennials look for in a manager

From Gallup’s “Employees Want a Lot More from Their Managers”

Employees whose managers hold regular meetings with them are almost three times as likely to be engaged as employees whose managers do not hold regular meetings with them.

From Qualtrics and Accel Partner’s Survey

Being able to communicate expectations clearly was the third most important quality in a manager according to 20- to 30-year-olds. 


Perhaps the most critical quality next-generation talent desires in a strong leader is transparency. High-potential talent does not just want to be told what to do at the office. This group wants to know why they are doing what they are doing. They want to know where they fit into the bigger picture of the organization. And they want to know what they have to do to keep progressing. 

Next-generation talent sees their work as being a part of their life. That being said, they want to work for someone who they can be open to about work – and other issues, as well. Being open and honest with this group will go a long way in workplace relationships, as well as productivity.

From Qualtrics and Accel Partner’s Survey

Expectations and goals are clearly set —2ndbiggest thing next-generation talents wants when they start their job. 

I’m provided all the information needed to do my job —3rdmost significant thing next-generation talent wants when they start their career. 

From Gallup’s “What Millennials Want From Work and Life”

62% of millennials who feel they can talk with their manager about non-work-related issues plan to be with their current organization one year from now. 

From IBM’s “Myths, Exaggerations, and Uncomfortable Truths”

“Transparent and readily shares information” was the second highest attribute of the perfect boss.

Attracting and retaining the next-generation of talent will be critical to the continued success of your organization. These folks want to work for strong leaders. Being a trustworthy, effective communicator with transparent expectations will separate the strong leaders from the weak leaders in the eyes of this next generation. Take the time to work on developing these traits. After all, they may be what separates you from your competition.