By Abasiono Okon
- Give them opportunities
That sounds simple, but it’s not. Many leaders are afraid to hand off real responsibility to leaders half their age. I understand because I made some huge mistakes as a young leader, but at the same time, that’s how I learned. Younger leaders want authority and a seat at the table now, not when they reach an expected age. Is it risky? Of course, but it has the potential for awesomeness to occur.
- Share experiences
Young leaders are open to learning from a mature leader’s successes and failures. They enjoy hearing stories of what worked and what didn’t. That’s actually one of the beauties of the newer generations. The young leaders on my team actually seek out my personal experience. They will still want the chance to learn on their own, but they are ready to glean from the wisdom of those who have gone before them, especially in the context of relationships.
- Allow for failure
People of all ages will make mistakes in leadership, regardless of their years of experience. For some reason, that seems magnified for the younger leaders, which is one reason older leaders sometimes shy away from them. An atmosphere that embraces failure as a part of the growth process invites younger leaders to take chances, risking failure and exploring possible genius discoveries.
- Be open to change
More than likely, younger leaders will do things differently than the older leaders did things. They want more flexible hours, different work environments, and opportunities to work as a team. It may seem unnatural at first, but let their process take shape, and you’ll have a better chance of leadership development occurring.
- Set high expectations
Having different working methods shouldn’t lower standards or quality expectations. The good thing is the younger leaders, from my experience, aren’t looking for a free ride, just a seat on the bus. Hold them accountable to clearly identified goals and objectives. Applaud them for good work and challenge them to continually improve. It’s part of their growth process.
- Provide encouragement
Younger leaders need feedback. They seem to want to know how they are doing far more often than the annual review system of the past afforded. They are looking to meet the approval of senior leadership and the organization. Keep them encouraged and they’ll keep aiming higher.
- Give constructive feedback
Again, younger leaders appear more interested in knowing they are meeting the expectations of senior leadership, so acknowledge that fact by helping them learn as they grow. Don’t simply share “good” or “bad” feedback. Rather, with the goal of helping them grow as leaders, give them concrete and constructive reviews of their performance. Help them understand not only what they did right or wrong, but practical ways they can get better in their work and leadership abilities.
Raising up younger leaders is crucial to growing and maintaining healthy organizations and churches. We must be intentional and diligent about investing in the next generation, understanding their differences, and working within their culture to grow new leaders.
Young leaders, what did I miss? Mature leaders, what else are you doing?