Thursday, April 05, 2012

Growing Agile Leaders—Part Three

Bob Dale has invested a great deal of his life in mentoring and coaching young leaders, realizing the importance of keeping  motivated and competent future leaders engaged.  In Growing Agile Leaders (available on Kindle as well as hard copy) , Bob recognizes that the needs of leaders differ at various stages of their lives and the life stage of the leader offers some unique benefits as well.  This led me to ask a question specifically related to young leaders.

What do young leaders bring to the table that increases their ability to be agile leaders?

Young leaders have huge potential as agile leaders.  I’ve had a great laboratory for shaping future leaders.  I was a seminary professor for a dozen years and then led Virginia Baptists’ Young Leaders Program for twenty-one years.  I’ve invested a lot of time and imagination in the next generation of leaders. 

I believe younger leaders have several advantages that aren’t native to older leaders.

First, today’s young leaders don’t expect continuity.  They’ve lived and lead in disjointed historical eras all of their lives.  They expect to have seven careers over their lifetimes.  Many younger leaders have an intuitive understanding of ways to bridge worlds.  They’ve dealt with constant transitions.  They’ve watched worlds morph and are building links from where we are to where we need to go next.  

Second, constant transitions have taught younger leaders to live “at speed.”  They’ve faced, coped with, and crossed several paradigm or mindset thresholds already.  Younger leaders have learned, unlearned, and relearned as a lifestyle---that’s what it means to them to be educated.  Consequently, they aren’t as apt to lock into “one right way” and only practice that singular approach.  Of necessity, because they’ve skated across icy worlds for most of their lives, younger leaders have had to become more agile.

Third, younger leaders have a hidden resource.  Having grown up during a chaotic, high-speed, global era, they’re advance scouts for organizations on the move.  A few years ago, I served as consultant to an international organization’s effort to start a world-wide leadership development process.  We identified models and experiences for the developing leaders.  We designed a variety of delivery systems for the training processes.   Then, one of the designers looked over our work, drew a deep breath, and asked hopelessly, “Where will we find teachers old enough to provide all we need?”  I turned the question around.  I lobbied for younger leaders to become the program’s trainers---young men and women who are mature, people with global backgrounds, persons with solid track records and varied experiences.  In other words, the mentors for many of us will be younger leaders.  Mentoring is as important to adults as parenting is to children.  But, with mentoring, age isn’t the beginning point.  Ability and agility are the ultimate game changers.

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