I’m a millennial. Yes, I’m hesitant to say that my generation has been coined as “entitled,” and a group who tends “follow their dreams” instead of concrete goals on a set timeline. As a former Sociology major at Baylor University, labels and stereotypes always tend to fascinate me. With these labels, there always comes an assumption – in this case, it’s that millennials lack the tools and life experience necessary achieve conventional “success.”

Well, what is the definition of success in the first place? Other generations might have been taught that it’s wealth, status, or achievements. But millennials tend to define success as the value and meaning they find both in work and life, as explained in this Forbes article. It’s not just about the paycheck, it’s about the purpose you feel in the work that you do.

A Millennial’s Journey

Older generations might view a typical millennial as savvy smartphone addicts who spend their days hunched over their screens, earbuds in, hoodies up, lost in a digital world and disassociated from real human interaction. This view of a millennial’s aptitude can interfere with the confidence others place in them to become strong leaders.

Millennials are a product of their environment, not the creators. I don’t feel responsible for the world that’s been created around me, but I do feel the pressure to keep up with a growing list of digital demands to survive in it. I created my first social media account on Facebook about ten years ago at the age of seventeen. At first, it was a fun way to connect with friends outside of school; but participation and a continued education in social media and computer skills became a requirement to stay up to speed in my career and in day-to-day life.

From an early age, I was taught by my dad that everyone in a job force is replaceable. My experience in the job force since graduating college is overwhelmed with thoughts of how to keep myself fiercely competitive – which means, in part, to stay digitally savvy. It’s a harsh reality when your skillset on a piece of paper matters more than your integrity and willingness to learn. This begs the question: with our age against us and our digital mindsets seen as a downfall – how can millennials not only re-define what it means to be successful, but what it means to be a leader?

Leading in Today’s World

I think we already have. Millennials have shown that conventional success does not equate to leadership. Your ability to lead is not tied to your yearly salary, your “well-known” name, or your successes. Your ability to lead lies within your choice to make a difference where you are today.

To me, a leader is someone who inspires change or hope by their actions. It’s not always the person leading the charge, it’s not always the person with the fancy words to verbalize the plan of action, and it’s not always the person who has their online “face” perfectly presented. Often, it’s one who leads by example.

Nelson Mandela once said, “Lead from the back — and let others believe they are in front.”

Despite your age, economic status, or religion, we are all meant to lead with purpose. We are all meant to show others what’s valuable in life, as we are only here for but a glimpse of time.

Was there ever a time in your life when you felt your ability to lead was undermined?