It is often said that youth will bring the change most needed in the world or that it is up to our young people to shape the future. I spoke with a few young leaders this week who are guiding their own organizations and becoming fixtures in their community of passion and action. It’s often talked about as some faraway day that we will lean on our young ones when really, they are doing the work and leading today.
One of the leaders quoted Alice Walker who said, “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” Young leaders have many innate characteristics that they have worked to strengthen and that we can learn from.
Characteristics of Young Leaders
Passion – Youth are led by passion and want to lead with passion. They are strong in their “why” and lead with it.
Curiosity – Young leaders are curious and this curiosity pushes boundaries. There is always more to learn and we can’t afford to get stuck in the last best way to do something.
Advocacy – Younger leaders are more likely to pursue mentors and own up to not knowing something. They have a desire to be humble as they know that they are young but that does not mean they are not capable. Advocating means that younger leaders are taking responsibility for their own learning and improvement. It also means they recognize the wisdom in others.
Process – Cycle of Performance* – Young leaders have an inherent desire to improve and progress their own skills. They may not be conscious of it, but young leaders implement processes similar to what I call the ‘Cycle of Performance’ to be reliable and hold themselves and others accountable for growth.
We could stand to take a page from their playbook. When we are older and decide that we have arrived at our goals we are also saying that there is no further room for growth. You completed your ten-year plan and got the position in leadership you worked so hard for, but that doesn’t mean the work is over! You made it a goal for a reason. Take a moment and think about that “why” and reignite the passion in what you do. When I asked the young leaders how to maintain passion and drive, they spoke of self reflection and taking the wins in the little things. Get excited that you landed a meeting or the new project assigned to you. When that passion is there your curiosity knows no bounds.
Continual learning is key to constant progression of the organization and your role as a leader. Another key is to always self-reflect. After a meeting or event, ask your team what could have made it go smoother and hold yourself accountable for the positive and the negative feedback.
Think about a young leader in your life. It could be your kids or a colleague at work. Spend time to talk with them and pay attention to how they communicate about their work and their strategies to keep growing. Let’s not get stuck in our ways, but rather work to create different ways together. Understand and collaborate, instead of spending time competing and talking down someone else’s way of doing something.
We can learn a lot from our younger leaders. Now is not the time to disregard anyone’s work because of their age. It should not be frowned upon to ask them for help! They ask us for advice, so let it be a two-way street. The best relationships are when everyone benefits. This week I challenge you to ask a young leader in your life for some advice, have a conversation with them, and learn from each other.
“The youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow” ~ Nelson Mandela
*Contact Greg if you want to learn more about the Cycle of Performance to move your organization to the next level.
The Importance of Youth Leadership