Training Millennials to Lead
Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. (Heb. 13:7)
“We’ve got to hold onto power as long as we can. You aren’t ready for it.”
I was wrapping up a leadership conference when a man in his late 70’s approached me to challenge my talk on Millennial leadership.
“Baby Boomers need to stay healthy and stay in charge. Who knows what will happen with you Millennials leading the country.”
Unfortunately this man isn’t alone. Many leaders today are afraid to give up their position because they don’t trust Millennials.
We are in the midst of the largest generational power hand-off in history.
Today 10,000 Baby Boomers will turn 65 years old. And although Baby Boomers are delaying retirement an average of five years, the real question is, “Who will replace them?”
Generation X is one-third the size of the Baby Boomer population. Translation: there are not enough Gen Xers to fill the hole that Baby Boomers are leaving. Organizations that want to survive the hand-off must start training Millennials for leadership – and fast.
I have helped companies, organizations and major brands around the world engage Millennials. Top executives complain to me privately that they shouldn’t have to change their entire organization for Millennials. I couldn’t agree more.
Millennials lead from the middle.
They believe Millennial engagement is about appeasement. In reality, it is about legacy.
My ten years of research and work in generational motivation has revealed an incredible truth. Unprepared Millennial leadership is the biggest threat to your organization’s survival.
Christian nonprofit leaders have three choices. They can keep their Baby Boomers longer (and many of them are). They can hire more Gen Xers (which is a short term fix). Or they can train Millennials for leadership.
Organizations that do not prepare today will wake up to find their board, their donors and their directors gone. Experts predict that the wave is less than five years away; giving you and your team just enough time to begin developing your younger leaders now.
Here are the four steps to training Millennials for leadership today:
1. Understand how they lead
Most leadership training programs don’t address generational leadership. All of our research shows each age cohort leads, and is led, differently than the others.
- Baby Boomers lead from the top down (very directional, process-oriented and structural).
- Generation X leads from the side (very independent, delegation-oriented and entrepreneurial.)
- Millennials lead from the middle. They seek collaboration whenever possible and want to tap into the opinions and experience of everyone on the team.
Train your executives, managers and new staff on generational leadership techniques. Help them identify what kind of leader they want to be and encourage opportunities for different-aged leaders to work together often.
2. Get their buy-in
Most leadership training programs don’t work. They teach principles, not practicalities. They focus on stories from other leaders, not real-world scenarios.
Perhaps the biggest mistake leadership programs make is not empowering participants to become a part of the curriculum.
We have developed Next Generation Leadership Academies inside of major companies and learned that getting their participation is the biggest key to success.
Assemble a learning committee and collect feedback on the topics for which they want training. Maybe they’re struggling with giving difficult feedback. Or perhaps they find it awkward managing someone their dad’s age. Develop a leadership program with, not just for, your new and young leaders.
3. Train them faster
Research shows that younger generations learn at a faster pace than older generations. Their ability to capture and process new information is an incredible asset for you and your team.
Develop clear training paths for employees at all levels.
Organizations that do not prepare today will wake up to find their board, their donors and their directors gone.
As soon as an employee is hired, they should be assigned a training path. No budget? No problem. Empower each of your staff to develop their own leadership training track. Have them incorporate books, TED Talks, classes and conferences. Create an accountability system where they are sharing with you and one another the key principles they’re learning.
4. Tie it all to purpose
Your Christian nonprofit has an incredible mission. It’s why you come early and stay late. It’s why your donors support you.
But your ministry’s mission is not your employees’ purpose. Help each member of your team find his or her purpose. Ask them questions like, “What one problem in the world would you like to solve?” and, “What do you believe God has uniquely gifted you in?” You can then help them connect those purpose points to their work at your organization.
The biggest mistake I see nonprofits make is assuming that their team members all share the same mission as the organization. You may have an incredible mission, but you can never assume your team feels personally connected or responsible to that goal.
Most leaders begin preparing someone for leadership when a vacancy appears. By that time it’s too late. Great organizations prepare every person on the team – from interns to executives – to be effective and engaging leaders.
Gabrielle Bosché is President of The Millennial Solution, an international Millennial consulting firm. She is the bestselling author of four books on her generation and has helped presidential campaigns, military generals and Fortune 500 CEOs engage Millennials. Learn more and download a free “Millennial Engagement Checklist” at millennialsolution.com.