75 million millennials (born from 1981-1997) are now assuming more leadership than ever in Christian organizations, churches, and businesses. What you need to know about the four ways today’s Millennials are shaking up Christian leadership and culture.
Bill Robinson knows millennials. As president of Whitworth University in Spokane, WA, (1993-2010), he engaged them in rich, thoughtful conversation, daily. Today, as an organizational leadership consultant, Bill is intrigued by the millennial generation more than ever. Recently, I sat down with Bill and asked him, “When it comes to frontline leadership, are millennials up to the task? And if so, what do we need to know? His candid, thoughtful responses to these and other questions kept me leaning forward.
Before long, Bill had spelled out four, clear watchwords for appreciating millennials and how they’re impacting workplace culture and, in turn, organizational impact.
1. Look and Learn
“The biggest rap on the millennial generation is that they feel entitled. This misperception, alone, would remind me not to stereotype any generation. Fact is, under the right circumstances millennial leaders can outwork the boomers and Gen X-ers put together. What differs is the incentives that motivate them.
2. Love Their Entrepreneurship
“Jena Lee, a Whitworth student early in the new millennium, was in the audience as the Christian music group, Jars of Clay, challenged her and others about the need for food, water and the AIDS crisis in Africa. After the concert, she met with the group’s members. Jena was hired by the band to start and lead a non-profit organization called Blood: Water, whose mission is to put an end to the HIV/AIDS and water crises in Africa. The title of her novel says it all: One Thousand Wells–How an Audacious Goal Taught Me to Love the World Instead of Save It. Today, the organization has brought clean blood and clean water to more than 62,000 Africans in 11 countries. Thousands of “greater good” start-ups have been launched by millennials.
3. Embrace Their Desire For Diversity
“My generation, the baby boomers, grew up somewhat surprised by the need for diversity. Today, millennials are surprised and troubled by diversity’s absence. If you’re just learning a language you’re still translating in your head. But if you know the language, you stop translating in your first tongue and think in your new language. For millennials, diversity is the norm; they are freely thinking and speaking the language of diversity. We need to learn from their appreciation for the richness and breadth of perspective made possible by diversity.
4. Leverage Their Courage
“Millennials take risks. It is easier for them to embrace the Silicon Valley mantra, ‘Fail fast, learn and re-launch,’ than it is for the rest of us. A close friend of mine, now president at a Christian university, told me his life was changed forever when he, as a young assistant to a university president was told by his boss, ‘There is a time for caution and a time for risk.’ When it’s time for risk, it’s probably time to call on the millennials.
What to do with millennials? We can either complain about their weaknesses—or leverage their strengths.
Will the millennials rise to the moment and leverage their courage for the sake of the organizations they lead? The jury is still out.
Whether it’s the millennials, Gen X-ers or boomers leading our organizations, we need to be mindful of redemption and remember that Christ is the essence of our being.
“As leaders, Christ’s redemption should always be ringing in our ears. For me, redemption happens at the communion table where I arrive terribly broken. Jesus, the bread of life, is broken and blessed, a reminder that our redemption in him has been bought with a price. This, alone, should keep us humble as we bless the next generation of leaders whose work has just begun.”