I just hung up the phone with a senior executive who asked me this question: How do we engage younger leaders?
It’s a great question, one that is repeatedly asked as the Millennials (born between 1980 and 2000) reshape our churches, companies and organizations. Here are some tips that I have learned from others or from my own experience in positively engaging younger leaders over the past decade:
1. Give them a piece of the action. This generation is not willing to wait 5-10 years in a job to start making a difference or having a voice. Institutional loyalty is low, but willingness to work hard is very high – if the vision is compelling. Look for ways to appropriately engage them in setting direction.
2. Entrust them with real responsibility and chances for achievement. Pay and working conditions are probably far less important than the work itself. This generation (like most younger generations throughout history) really wants to change the world. Will we let them?
3. Mentor, don’t mother. This generation aspires to lead and has the horsepower to do so. Having grown up in online social networks, many already possess the knowledge, intellectual flexibility and the social awareness of emerging leaders. Their desire to exert influence doesn’t mean they want to stage a coup of older generations. Most long for a mentor – a stable, trusted elder relationship that doesn’t focus on “the good old days” but dreams about the future together.
4. Provide sufficient structure by limiting options. Option overload has brought this generation to brink of analysis paralysis. I was in a leadership workshop last week when the topic of structure and constraint came up. Some people hear the word “structure” and envision a prison cell in which all movement is stifled. Others view constraint in a more positive way, like riverbanks that give shape to a mighty river instead of allowing it to flood everywhere. Focus brings power and fruitfulness.
How do you like to be engaged?