Are Millennials Fit to Lead?

What happens when the youngest, greenest and least experienced step into leadership?
Young_Leaders_RECTby: Andrew Hink; reposted from relevantmagazine.com

 

It was 6:00 a.m. when I rolled out of bed. Only 72 hours earlier, I was waking up to life as a college student. On Saturday, as I walked across my alma mater’s commencement platform, my thoughts were enamored with the enormity of the future ahead of me, symbolized by the mighty blue Pacific Ocean extending into the horizon. It was now Wednesday morning, and my thoughts were focused on the morning rush-hour traffic in Los Angeles and the uniform I had seen my baby-boomer father put on nearly every day of my childhood life: a freshly starched dress shirt, slacks and, on this occasion, the best tie I could find.

I was a fortunate outlier. Amidst historic times of economic recession plaguing the futures of my fellow college graduates, I had finished college not just with my diploma in hand, but also a job. I was finally joining “the big boy working world.”

My job hunt brought me to the management team of a nonprofit agency. My responsibilities required managing staff, coordinating volunteers and developing programs for clients. In other words, in a matter of days, I had transitioned from undergrad student to professional leader. But I soon learned it wasn’t quite as simple as that.

THE SIMPLEST OF QUESTIONS RADICALLY CHALLENGED MY NOTION OF MY PLACE IN THE OFFICE WHEN MY ASSISTANT, A BABY BOOMER, TURNED TO ME AND ASKED, “ANDREW, HOW OLD ARE YOU?”

From my undergrad experience, I thought I had a pretty good grasp on what it takes to lead. Whether it was serving on student government or representing my high school classmates on the city school board, I was used to leading people. You agree to serve, run for a position, and more times than not, you have some title to hold. This naiveté oozed from my Millennial self as I drove to work that first day, ready to begin the next chapter as a “director.”

The simplest of questions radically challenged my notion of my place in the office when my assistant, a baby boomer, turned to me and asked, “Andrew, how old are you?”

This first job gave me a crash course in the challenges of leading as a Millennial in an intergenerational workplace, and I had to recognize different approaches to learning and living that I hadn’t considered before. Without a doubt, the meetings with my baby-boomer assistant, daily conversations with my Gen-X boss and other interactions with clients and colleagues taught me and challenged me more than I could have ever imagined after spending most of the previous four years around people my age.

After nearly a year and a half in the position, I realized there was a lot more to learn in order to contribute my best in developing people and serving organizations. The next step in my Millennial journey, then, took me to graduate school, beginning a M.A. in, of all things, leadership.

Leadership has been a focal point of our cultural consciousness for centuries. We’ve debated whether or not leaders are born are made. Countless articles and books have been published to help leaders with easy tips and quick solutions for our most common problems. This is especially true in the Church, where leadership is often considered the capstone of spiritual maturity.

“I AM ALSO GETTING IN TOUCH WITH THE MYSTERY THAT LEADERSHIP, FOR A LARGE PART, MEANS TO BE LED.” —HENRI NOUWEN

Yet with recent movements and revolutions from Wall Street to the Middle East, we have shown that followers are an even more significant element in the leadership equation than had been previously believed. It’s the followers who comprise the fuller movements that pave the way for real change.

Additionally, organizational structure is shifting. Different generations of leaders in companies have transitioned from largely organizational cultures of hierarchy and bureaucracy to new atmospheres of collaboration with flatter structures.

In this new reality, the emphasis on authority, position and title has been diminished. By 2020, many expect that we will have an unprecedented five generations at work together. As today’s record numbers of Millennials appear on the workplace scene, they have big aspirations and carry the expectation, often, to rise to the top in a position of leadership.

Our culture has long prized leadership, usually praising achievement of position or applauding titles and authority. But with these new developments and changing workplace realities, we have an opportunity to change the way we think about and practice leadership, especially across the growing generational spectrum at work.

Catholic priest and writer Henri Nouwen names this new opportunity well: “I am also getting in touch with the mystery that leadership, for a large part, means to be led.” My experiences, and maybe yours as well, have quite poignantly aligned with his countercultural words. Through leading as a Millennial fresh out of college, my eyes have been opened to the great possibilities of learning and living when you realize there is much that you don’t know and much to be learned.

By learning how to follow well, we learn how to better lead. Despite entering the workplace with limited experience, Millennials have a unique opportunity to contribute to the organizations where we work and serve. Alongside colleagues from across the generational spectrum, who have already seen great change in the workplace, my fellow Millennials can contribute the most by leading and living with an attitude of perpetual learning. When we recognize and live with this attitude, we continue the journey of never arriving. This is the best kind of leadership we can offer.

Leadership & Reflections.

  My reflections from 21 most powerful minutes in a leaders day by John Maxwell.

 The Law of THE LID — Leadership ability determines your effectiveness:

 1. In your leadership, have you been more like David or Saul?

As much as I would love to say that I am more like David, I can’t. I think I have been more like Saul. Because leadership ability determines a person’s level of effectiveness, I know my leadership ability is lacking in lots of ways, due to not only lids in my life but my lack of understanding the nature of leadership…just like Saul.

I have always thought leadership was just something you were born with and if you weren’t born with the right personality and attitude, there was no way you could ever become a great leader. But I am learning that this is totally a false way of approaching leadership, I have to want to change and grow in who God has called me to be, no matter what I think or feel; its time to improve myself consistently towards the next level…just like David did.

2. What lids exist in your life?

I am not a fan of this question. But I am sure that if I am truly honest, I could make a list the length of a football field but I will list the ones that have been floating around me for some time.

Fear. (…the unknown)

Insecurity. (…what others think about me and my leadership ability.)

Discipline. (…disciplining myself to learn and grow spiritually and demand improvement of myself.).

Initiative. (…being confident in creative ideas and taking the ‘dive’ whether others agree with me or not.)

Inexperience. (..my lack of experience because I am young.)

Denial. (…being confronted about a shortcoming or issue in my life and without confessing and praying about, deciding it’s not true about my life.)

Contempt. (…getting to a place where I don’t want to learn and grow as a leader.)

3. What lids can you lift?

I can lift all of the lids listed. For me, it’s going to have to start with my attitude and truthfully answering the hard questions to myself.

I cannot be a lid lifter if I am not willing to grow personally first.

4. Who are the lid lifters in your life?

I can feel that the list of lid lifters in my life is growing and I pray that I always have people to lift me up despite my shortcomings. I know that I can’t lift my lids on my own. I pray that I can be a lid lifter in their lives too.

5. Which one leadership concept, insight, or practice that you’ve learned this week will you pass on to another leader in the next two days?

Every leader has lids regardless of title, position, or achievement. I am going to lift the lids that I can on my own and be courageous and humble enough to grow through the encouragement and Biblical wisdom of those in my life who are lid lifters.

Leadership Lesson…Take 2!


I have never been one for taking initiative. I have never been one for taking risks and chances on things. So, I have never been one for remotely considering myself as a leader. And that’s ok…right?

I have been blessed to be part of an organization that has bombarded this extremely Type-B personality with biblical lessons in leadership. I have learned that ultimately anyone can be a leader…because leadership is influence.

Leadership = Influence

Here’s where my habit of over thinking things comes into full force. For me, a definition like that gives me the idea that I, as a leader, should for the most part have the answer. If I am going to influence people, they are going to look to me. Here’s my problem…I don’t have all the answers. But that’s ok because its not about having answers to give others to then influence them.
I think its about seeing something and not just showing others where to go, but taking them by the hand and involving them. I still have a long way to go with this and I’m ok with that too. God sent Jesus as the ultimate example of what it means to lead others and I pray I can learn through His word what it means to be a leader for His glory.

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Am I going crazy?


Ok, this guy is crazy.
Why is he playing clarinet? I would’ve liked to seem him play a Sousaphone.

Anyway, I have figured out that leadership is hard. Balancing getting work done and leading a team can be frustrating at times. I think it’s easy for potential leaders (like me) to feel like a total failure or even burn out. I know I have felt this way and are still having moments of feeling this way too. Here’s where I think my problem is…and it may be the same for you. I thrive on doing my job alone. A better way would be I thrive on individual accomplishment. But I don’t like being alone in my accomplishments. I love working with teams and impacting others.
Am I going crazy? Is this normal? By working on what I am doing individually, am I focusing too much on being a “me” player instead of a team player? Am I owning all the pieces or just mine? This is frustrating.
I have 3 things working alongside me that is making this more difficult:

#1. Perfection = ?

I’m somewhat of a perfectionist. I’m not on medication for OCD or anything like that, but I do struggle with letting go. I find I often say to myself “Geez, it’s so much faster if I just do it myself!” Please tell me I’m not the only one out there that says things like this. ☺ Ultimately, I know replacing myself is necessary if I am going to be effective to my organization.

#2. Rut Row. (Scooby Doo)

I have tasks, deadlines, goals, etc. and I plan to finish them. So, I begin my race and go, go, go until it is finished. Once I cross the finish line, I start immediately on another race. No time for anything else because I am constantly at a starting or finishing point. More of a never-ending cycle.
The problem is if I’m here to long…I feel jammed. Stuck. Rut Row!

#3. Good Stress. Bad Stress.

If one of our senses is damaged or lost, the others are heightened. If we have a whacked out muscle or group the others jump in and help the rest of the body. Something sacrifices attention from its job to serve and help the others. This is both good and bad stress in my opinion. It’s great because it is demonstrating the example of teamwork. That’s the good stress. Overtime though, it can pull the life out of the team. That’s the bad stress.

So am I alone in this? I pray that I am not. I have a feeling I’m not. But in the meantime, I will be looking to what God’s word has to say and will be sharing that with you all soon. Don’t be discouraged. Learn to understand that these issues are normal and work through them. We will all end up better people and better leaders not just for others, but more importantly ourselves.