Posted by on 29/03/2016

Tim ElmoreI was recently reading a blog of a solid leader who I deeply respect and have always loved learning from. Dr. Tim Elmore is an excellent thinker, profound writer, and continually challenges and develops my own mentality as he develops leaders. I was reading his post, “One Looming Problem for Millennials in Organizations” and was so thankful for his heart to push leaders to develop younger leaders. We need more of it!

I’m a millennial, so when someone writes and encourages older leaders to pour into me, I’m pretty excited. Dr. Elmore identified a few things that I thought were interesting:

I can only guess why seasoned executives neglect to build Millennial leaders:

  • They can’t seem to bridge the gap in their generational differences.
  • They don’t want to work hard enough to get to know the newest staff.
  • They don’t yet see the value these young team members add.
  • They intend to develop young leaders, but get caught in survival mode.

I found this so fascinating because I am not a seasoned executive and it was interesting to hear what a smart guy like Tim Elmore had to say about this stuff. I’ve been a reader of Bill Hybels, Andy Stanley, and other leadership writers for a while, so I could see why these tensions could be there.

However, this list struck me for a different reason. After this list, Dr. Elmore continued on to beseech current executives to intentionally invest in the younger leaders that are in their organizations. But, what I started to think about was the response of the millennial with leadership potential. What should the millennial leader do to develop leadership skills/experience.

So, in response to Dr. Elmore’s post, I wanted to offer three quick things that Millennials who are aspiring to leadership may want to consider and things that I have learned.

1. Take Solid Notes On Everything

What is so tempting, and I’ve fallen prey to this mentality, is to think that it is solely on your boss to spell out every lesson you will ever need to succeed and rise up. While developing leaders may be a part of their job description, it’s rarely their only responsibility. The best way to learn is to observe and assess everything from multiple angles. Realize this is taking notes, not making a list of suggestions. Just because you see it doesn’t mean that everyone does, AND (this is a big and) that may be ok for the organization right now. (yeah, I’ve screwed that one up too.)

2. Get Solid Perspective On Your Notes

It’s easy as a leader-type to see things, have an inclination on how things can be better, and struggle to fight the urge to push leadership toward that idea. I might be the chief of sinners on this one. You can ask my co-workers and my bosses, I am a struggling idea freak. The point is that it is easy to have an idea, get completely convinced that it is the best way to go, be completely right with the idea, but completely wrong with the timing and approach to implementing that idea. It’s not wrong to have lots of ideas. It’s wrong to think that all the other ideas can’t be better. I’ve found that talking about those ideas with leadership helps me refine those ideas. Sometimes, they even plant seeds in leadership to see that idea through. The point is: Invite your leadership to challenge your ideas.

3. Read Solid Stuff from Other Leaders

Some of my most brilliant friends are much more avid readers than I am. I’m working on it, but am not even close to where I want to be. But what I have noticed is that my friends have similar ideas to me, but they are more refined because they are learning from other great leaders who have already written it down. (I guess that means I won’t be writing that NY Times Bestseller anymore. Thanks John Maxwell.) You won’t get better at doing leadership you if you aren’t learning from the giants who are writing incredible things right now. And before you go purchase every book John Maxwell has written or everything that Andy Stanley has ever published, or the box set of Leadership Summit files, let me say one thing. The big names aren’t always the best names if they don’t challenge you, practically, to do something different. Some of the most challenging books I have read are small, very practical books that were given to me to read. They weren’t bestsellers. They were just solid stuff. The best stuff out there is the stuff that challenges you to the best leadership you have to offer.

I know this: I’m not going to accidentally get better at what I do. The only way to get better is to intentionally develop ways to stretch my thinking and change my practical leadership. I just figure that a lot of that has to do with how I approach my own development.

What did I forget? What would you add? Leave your list in the comments!

Posted in: Culture, Leadership
  • Tim Johnson

    Great observations – I like the way you think. Pretty sure you already know that.

  • Great wisdom here for leaders of any age! Thank you!