Next Generation Solutions
It’s official. We are in a new normal. Barna calls today’s landscape the Digital Babylon. Unlike ancient Babylon, Digital Babylon is not a physical place but it exists through digital devices where screens disciple the next generation.
Are you a leader with a “Blockbuster” brand of leadership while the next generation is growing up in a “Netflix” world?
While the world is becoming more VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous), the type of leadership that is being exercised today could be described as rather archaic. Ask yourself. Are you a leader with a “Blockbuster” brand of leadership while the next generation is growing up in a “Netflix” world?
Let me share two problems of the next generation with corresponding proven solutions for leaders to employ in order to better engage, retain, and lead the next generation.
Problem 1: Empowerment without wisdom
The next generation is empowered with a plethora of resources thanks to smart technology but may not have the capacity to leverage that power wisely. Today, an emerging adult who wants to write and publish a book can do it without any help from a publisher by self-publishing it on Amazon. If they want to record their own song, they don’t need a record label. They can simply record it on their smart phone and post it on YouTube. In this culture, you can be an influencer without being in authority.
Sociology professor Dr. Anthony Campolo said it best: “I don’t believe we live in a world full of bad kids. I believe we live in a world full of kids who know too much, too soon.” Dr. Tim Elmore, author of Generation Z Unfiltered, (Poet Gardner, 2019) said it best: “Many emerging adults are over-exposed to information far earlier than they are ready while under-exposed to first-hand experiences far later than they’re ready.” In other words, this has created a generation that is biologically and cognitively advanced but emotionally and socially behind.
Solution: Help them lead with first-hand experiences.
Application transforms information into wisdom. Practice becoming a “free-range leader” by allowing the next generation to increase their level of risk and letting them fail. As leaders, you want to integrate both a high purpose and high flexibility leadership style. There is an element of deliberative planning involved but also a style that allows them to learn on their own.
Practice the big IDEA for turning superficial knowledge to authentic wisdom:
I – Instruction
Leaders provide explanations of knowledge and understanding. Use images and metaphors that encapsulate the concept.
D – Demonstration
Leaders identify examples of the lessons or insight in real life. This provides clarity of vision and confidence for the next generation. Model it out in person or on video.
E – Experience
Leaders let the next generation practice the insight on their own. They need to experience the insight for themselves which will require courage and risk.
A – Assessment
Leaders help evaluate the learning process with the next generation. This post-mortem conversation could become one of the most impactful learning moments.
Problem 2: Ambition without calling
Fame has become the truth north for many young people. In fact, one study by Barna shows that 26% of teenagers think they will definitely, or probably, be famous by the time they turn 25. The temptation to “make it” on YouTube is real. Most young people say their primary goals include completing their education to land a “high-paying job” where they “can make a difference.” While this new generation is super ambitious their goals are mostly indistinguishable from goals of non-Christians. They lack a sense of calling and direction of their lives, and mainly determine the success of their lives based on performance.
Solution: Vocationally disciple the next generation.
Seventy percent of Millennials say their career is central to their identity. In fact, more and more Millennials are choosing a multi-career path. We live in a gig economy, a free agent world of work.
According to Emerging Adulthood by Jeffrey Arnett (Oxford University Press, 2014) an average twenty-something will have seven different jobs just in their twenties.
Many Millennials are craving for more direction and discipleship when it comes to theology of calling as it relates to work.
Many Millennials are craving for more direction and discipleship when it comes to theology of calling as it relates to work. Leaders can help connect the dots between Sunday worship and Monday work.
So practically, what does this look like for your organization? Here are two ideas:
- Identify Christian professionals who can commit to in-depth relationships (mentoring, but with a vocational focus), or even just provide exposure, or any other profession where a young person could spend a day with other Christians in different fields.
- Provide explicit training and resources for how to live out Christianity in the workplace—seminars, case studies and personal stories. Leaders can set the tone by helping next generation leaders connect the dots between how their faith informs their work.
Paul Sohn is a leadership coach, best-selling author and speaker. Formerly employed by both a Fortune 50 company and a Top 100 Great Place to Work Company, Paul is the founder of QARA where he helps Millennials and emerging adults discover their unique calling. Paul is also working at Biola University as the Director of Strategic Career Initiative. Paul is a best-selling author of Quarter-Life Calling: Pursuing Your God-Given Purpose in Your Twenties (FaithWords, 2017). Paul was named one of the “Top 33 under 33 Christian Millennials to Follow” by Christianity Today. In 2016, Paul received the John C. Maxwell Transformational Leadership Award.