Millennials are moving into leadership. Ready or not.

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My life feels like a test I didn’t study for — anonymous millennial

Remember how our parents’ generation were scared to death of Boomers? Those crazy sex, drug and rock-n-rollers were going to destroy the utopian 50s culture they’d created. Then boomers repeated the generational pattern: we were all deathly afraid the world would end when the millennials began taking over. (Those born between 1980 and 2003.)

And now they are. Taking over.

Did you know that 10,000 Boomers reach retirement age every day? And the entire generation will be off the leadership grid by 2030?

Why all the fear? Well, consider the stereotypes:

· Entitled Snowflakes

· Slackers

· Tech savvy beyond all generational peers

· Move through jobs quickly and often

Old Professor Warning: Generalizations and mass attribution of motives for 70–90 million Americans are most likely erroneous. (est. 2.5B worldwide.) If you are millennial, or have them in your family or friend circles, I know you agree.

In fact, for the millennial readers of this blog, please stop rolling your eyes and just read on. I think you’ll like what you’ll discover herein.

A Deloitte University study, The Millennial Majority is Transforming Your Culture summarizes findings re how this generation is moving into leadership roles and what that means for “business as usual.” Here, among others, are five key qualities millennials display as they, in increasing numbers, enter the leadership force:

· They are strategic

· They value relevant training

· They are collaborative, recognizing and seeking out different perspectives

· They align work and life values

· They are adaptable and flexible

All this begs the question: are millennials ready to lead, and if so, how will the they change the workplace?

Readiness to Lead:

1) They’re old enough. The top end of this generation is now 41. Where were you at that age? What roles did you occupy? Many have been in the workforce for over a decade. They’ve gained important expertise and experience and are ready for bigger roles.

2) Overwhelming numbers. In fact, last year, they overtook Boomers as the largest generational demographic. And by virtue of the math, they represent the largest percentage of the workforce. As older leaders retire, millennials will fill the void.

3) Autonomous and confident. Millennials crave autonomy. At the same time, they have built strong confidence in their skills. That combination adds up to a willingness to lead.

Millennial Leadership Hallmarks: How are they different from their own bosses?

1) Lacking what they perceive as a sufficient amount of feedback at work, their focus is on providing important, meaningful, relevant and consistent qualitative communication. Their comfort with collaboration motivates a greater emphasis on team-building.

2) More rapid adoption of new technologies. Yes, they’re tech savvy. But they’re also optimistic and less suspicious of advances that they perceive will move their enterprise forward. These traits will lead to more experimentation and innovation.

3) Flexibility and suspicion of traditional hierarchical systems will add up to fewer rules and higher levels of job customization. Look for progress in flexible working hours and locations, along with relaxed rules in the office.

4) Brand focused. Mission-driven. Thank a lifetime of social media immersion for millennials’ intense focus on brands, company values and culture. Life purpose is more important than financial rewards for many. This emphasis will find focus in creating power brands with social relevance and context.

5) When hiring, they focus more on candidates who display curiosity — an eagerness to learn. Bringing skills and well-written letters of recommendation are not valued as highly. Passion trumps experience. We can teach what you need to know here, is the thinking.

A strong motive in my life is to help prepare a new generation of True North leaders. Let’s presume all I’ve reported (above) is true. What will distinguish the next leaders whose focus is truth, authenticity and a Spirit-empowered life focus?

A quick report from the Present. There is a void coming.

· Brooklyn Tabernacle pastor, Jim Cymbala, estimates 20% of current pastors will leave their church ministry as the Covid pandemic ends.

· Barna Research reports 50% of millennials have stopped watching streamed church services during the pandemic.

· CBN News reports 59% of millennials raised in a Christian church have left the faith. Others estimate up to 75% jettison their faith after high school.

· Scandals rocking the church haven’t helped: Hillsong’s Carl Lentz, Ravi Zacharias, Jerry Falwell, Jr., et.al.

· Recent uptick in the politicization of the Faith, Christian nationalism and polarizing moral/social issues are top-of-mind issues.

· Rash of public figures de-converting from Christianity.

· Christian millennials increasingly embrace newer popular cultural norms:

o tolerance (read: the My Truth notion)

o relaxed sexual mores (41% agree co-habitation is a “good idea”)

o 35% agree with many LGBTQ lifestyle norms and attitudes

· Gen Z becomes the first post-Christian demographic.

David Kinnaman’s recent book, Faith for Exiles reveals findings from a three-year research study that looked at the landscape for 21st century millennial Christians. His work informs these summary thoughts on who a new generation of True North leaders will be, what they’ll look like and how they’ll lead.

Spirit-Empowered Resilience

A new generation of True North leaders will embrace the biblical notion of personal weakness vis-à-vis God’s strength (2 Corinthians 12:10).

· They will wholeheartedly find their identity in an experiential Jesus-focus.

Regardless of the list of reasons for departing the faith (listed above), TNLs will embrace:

o Philippians 4:13, I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me.

o Ephesians 6:10–14, stepping into the full armor of God

o Joshua 1:9, the confidence that God is with them always.

o Hebrews 13:5, I will never leave nor forsake you.

· They will be culturally discerning.

They will cultivate Godly Wisdom to understand and confront the cultural issues of the day. This life of the mind will be informed by God’s word, a sensitivity and awareness to our post-Christian environment, and the promises of God (James 1:5).

· They will continue to build on their natural proclivities to foster meaningful relationships — both within and without the Church.

They will engage culture and resist the old religious notion of isolationism — hiding away on a mountaintop to avoid the evils of culture, and await the rapture.

· They will understand their calling: to Whom. For Whom. And their purpose.

· They will conceive creative approaches for effective counter-cultural missions.

In doing so, they will find answers to questions of life significance and personal legacy.

They will discover answers to Francis Schaeffer’s famous question (1976) How Should we Then Live?

Regardless of your generational membership, I think we can all agree that God has never been surprised nor unaware of cultural and social challenges from one generation to the next. He has never been without a plan to effectively reach people groups anywhere anytime. He has never ever been without leaders who, empowered by His Spirit, emerge into roles of significance for His Kingdom’s sake.

Please. Millennials. Be that leader. For God’s sake!

Norm Mintle