What does it take to lead?
“When you are young, you work for your name. When you are older, your name works for you.”
Generation Y, and especially Generation Z coming up after, don’t disagree; their timeline is just a lot shorter than previous generations! Ever wonder, often with annoyance, why Youngers these days seem to expect more leadership and practical opportunities sooner than later? It’s because they do. All the hands-on opportunity technology provides and the internships and apprenticeships that are available create a scenario where experience, not age, is their measure of capacity for leadership.
Neither that expectation, nor the annoyance with it, is out of place. Knowledge doesn’t necessarily equate to wisdom. Church leadership that intentionally creates low-risk growth opportunities and grooms high-quality NextGen servant-leaders will do well, according to a recent Deloitte survey. This will encourage Millennial partners that you care about their personal and professional development (something that means the world), without putting them in a position they think they are ready for, but may not be.
How do we grow and innovate together?
“Ain’t no young kid gonna tell me how to do the job. After they’ve done it for thirty years like me then they can talk. Until then, they need to just do what I say.”
Fortunately the gentleman who expressed this to me wasn’t saying it in a church context, but no doubt this is a common perspective that many older, experienced people have. While I’m blessed to know many who don’t operate this way, fresh suggestions of going about something or younger perspectives can meet this kind of attitude.
And while experience is invaluable, there’s also a problem with this kind of thinking: innovation and improved ways of doing things often come from naiveté- not knowing the obstacles, limits, or problems from the outset: inexperience.
The graph below shows an interesting shift (from Harvard Business Review). The percentage of creative jobs (as opposed to routine-based jobs) has increased steadily over the years. Youngers today are used to having technology at their fingertips that allows them to assess, adapt, and question quickly. Older generations have a much better sense of organizational and system-loyalty, and may be content to routinely maintain what already seems to be going well.
Both have a point. Creating intergenerational settings where young people can learn and bounce ideas off of wiser and more experienced individuals is beneficial to everyone. Older adults who are open to new ideas can help channel fresh thinking with time-tested strategies that create a best-of-both-worlds scenario.
As this Barna study fleshes out, stereotypes and issues of retention, locality, and mobility are often overstated or misunderstood. On the other hand, the tentative years of youth are something that doesn’t change much from generation to generation. Education, job opportunity, payment and compensation, these are things that take time to get right and can feel rootless at first. The fact of the matter is that churches, like any organization, are going to have to constantly struggle with what it means to have a revolving door of Younger generations figuring themselves out.
In this transitive stage and world, Millennials define commitment as output – what gets done and is it done well? Older leadership and team members will be more focused on input- how many days am I in the building on time doing stuff? The middle ground for generations to work well together is to start small. The church is known for big and undefined assignments. Work to carve out 3-9- month opportunities that are of mutual benefit, but also are mutually understood to end, with the ability to either renew engagement, move into another area of church activity, or transition altogether. An intentional mentorship and leadership development structure throughout will increase rootedness for Youngers and retention for the church. In return, you’ll get the best Millennials have to offer.
Are you seeing this in your church or organization? Are there other tensions that weren’t listed here that should be? Comment on the blog and share this article!
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