Is anyone else getting tired of all the talk about differences in leadership qualities between the Baby Boomer, Gen X and Millennial generations? So many people/media/illustrations/etc. oversimplify descriptions of Millennials. I’m not even a member of this generation, and I find it offensive.
Nearly every conference I attend has a presentation discussing the topic. Countless articles are being written. Lunch table discussions often include people chuckling about what Millennials will and won't do. Boardroom conversations about ways to attract and retain this generation occur without a single Millennial in the room. The list goes on and on.
It’s time to throw out the generalizations and try a new way of thinking about our generational differences.
First and foremost, let's remember that Millennials are young. (Captain Obvious, right?) My point is, all of us Baby Boomers and Gen X’ers were their age once. Our views, priorities and interests were different than they are today. Aging and children will do that to people. The movie Woodstock was on PBS the other night and I laughed as I pictured my Baby Boomer friends and coworkers twirling to the Grateful Dead or sitting in a drum circle.
I fall squarely in the middle of the Gen X age range. Here’s the list of the main things I wanted as I began my career – in no particular order: financial security, opportunity for advancement, access to people above me, free time to pursue my personal interests, plenty of vacation, and a fun environment where I like my coworkers. I believe these desires cross every generation. I also believe that most of us lack the good fortune of securing every one of these aspirations. When things don’t work for us, we are inclined to share our personal, “walk to school in six feet of snow” story, and tell the younger generation 1) how good they have it, and 2) that they need to suck it up.
Warning! I am going to preach for a minute. In Luke 22, the apostles were bickering over who of them would end up the greatest. Jesus intervened, "Kings like to throw their weight around and people in authority like to give themselves fancy titles. It's not going to be that way with you. Let the senior among you become like the junior; let the leader act the part of the servant." Jesus goes on to say, "But I've taken my place among you as the one who serves. And you've stuck with me through thick and thin."
It’s time to focus our time and attention on servant leadership. Let’s all stop insulting the younger generation by making unfair sweeping statements about them. Let’s stop puffing out our chest and saying what hard workers we are, and bragging about the sacrifices we have made. There never will be a greater servant leader than Jesus Christ. He is an ageless, timeless example we all can follow. My hope and prayer is that you will join me in the pursuit of servant leadership.
This blog was written with the Gen X’ers and Baby Boomers in mind, but I truly hope that some Millennials will read this and weigh in with their thoughts.