How Do We Lead Gen F?

Gen F – the Facebook Generation.

Facebook hit 200 million users this week, in 40 languages.  That’s doubled from 100 million just 8 short months ago. [Update: Facebook hit 500 million registered users in the summer of 2010.] The NY Times graphed the progress, including the generational element. If Facebook were a country, it would be the world’s 5th most populous nation, following China, India, the USA and snuggled between Indonesia (220 million) and Brazil (190 million).

The under-25’s are the people that have never known a time when they couldn’t know more about a subject than their professors could teach in a 45-minute lecture simply by exploring the top 10 Google hits. No wonder this group is a bit skeptical of leadership authority culture based on traditional currencies such as age, position or tenure.

If you are currently hiring, leading, serving or parenting Gen F’ers, you’ve already begun to experience the quantum shifts unique to this group and how they rub against our 20th century norms. We need to adjust our expectations to lead, love, learn from and serve well this flexible, well-connected, highly-social group that longs to change the world.

Gary Hamel of the Wall Street Journal says: If your company hopes to attract the most creative and energetic members of Gen F, it will need to understand these Internet-derived expectations, and then reinvent its management practices accordingly. Sure, it’s a buyer’s market for talent right now, but that won’t always be the case—and in the future, any company that lacks a vital core of Gen F employees will soon find itself stuck in the mud.

Gary includes an excellent list of 12 principles to help guide and shape our leadership culture. Here are the first six (the whole article is here):

1. All ideas compete on an equal footing.
On the Web, every idea has the chance to gain a following—or not, and no one has the power to kill off a subversive idea or squelch an embarrassing debate. Ideas gain traction based on their perceived merits, rather than on the political power of their sponsors.

2. Contribution counts for more than credentials.
When you post a video to YouTube, no one asks you if you went to film school. When you write a blog, no one cares whether you have a journalism degree. Position, title, and academic degrees—none of the usual status differentiators carry much weight online. On the Web, what counts is not your resume, but what you can contribute.

3. Hierarchies are natural, not prescribed.
In any Web forum there are some individuals who command more respect and attention than others—and have more influence as a consequence. Critically, though, these individuals haven’t been appointed by some superior authority. Instead, their clout reflects the freely given approbation of their peers. On the Web, authority trickles up, not down.

4. Leaders serve rather than preside.
On the Web, every leader is a servant leader; no one has the power to command or sanction. Credible arguments, demonstrated expertise and selfless behavior are the only levers for getting things done through other people. Forget this online, and your followers will soon abandon you.

5. Tasks are chosen, not assigned.
The Web is an opt-in economy. Whether contributing to a blog, working on an open source project, or sharing advice in a forum, people choose to work on the things that interest them. Everyone is an independent contractor, and everyone scratches their own itch.

6. Groups are self-defining and -organizing.
On the Web, you get to choose your compatriots. In any online community, you have the freedom to link up with some individuals and ignore the rest, to share deeply with some folks and not at all with others. Just as no one can assign you a boring task, no can force you to work with dim-witted colleagues.

By Ken

Dr. Ken Cochrum (DMin, Bethel University) is Vice President of Global Digital Strategies at Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) in Orlando, Florida. An avid cyclist and aspiring guitarist, he also holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering from The University of Texas and a Masters of Arts in Biblical Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary. He recently co-founded, a movement passionate about connecting people to Jesus using digital strategies. He previously served as vice president of Cru’s student-led movements worldwide. He and his wife Ann spent 13 years in East Asia where they raised their two children. Ken blogs regularly at

2 replies on “How Do We Lead Gen F?”

Great thoughts and it would serve us well to listen. Make sure you listen to the podcast I sent you as it fits into what you wrote. Thanks for keeping us on the cutting edge.

I’ve started reading the work of Jane McGonigle, the games designer, who challenges us to make work as good as games.

There is a whole new mindset to get used. Written a handful of posts but find myself speechless, for once.

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