“Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. “John 21:17
My posts have generally involved topics of the next generation, usually with some insight into trends and attributes. I’ve thought about this a while, and I feel a small pivot may be useful. We are looking to the next generation to ultimately take charge, yet we often overlook discussing leadership, particularly servant leadership.
Jesus had a lot to say about leadership, but much of it is not taught. For example, in the above passage that Jesus didn’t say “Lead my sheep,” to Simon. He told him to “Feed” my sheep. Feeding sheep is servant leadership.
This is an important topic. In contemporary Christianity, it is almost ignored completely. No seminary, either protestant or Catholic, offers courses on leadership. As a result, graduates are left on their own to figure out what leadership is, what it looks like, and how they do it. They often get it wrong, particularly if they assimilate from the culture around them.
At MentorLink, we have found that the cultural model of leadership doesn’t vary much from country to country. Let’s just call it “universal” because it is so pervasive. Each country or region calls it something different, but at its core, the leadership model consists of similar attributes.
In Africa, the model is called a chief (of a tribe). In South America or Eastern Europe, it is called a tyrant or dictator. In the middle east, it is a sheik, and in Asia, it is the strong man. In the western world, it is the CEO model from the business world.
While there are some differences between each of these models, they are consistent around the world as to how secular leadership plays out. It is essentially a top-down power model.
Sadly, the secular model is unbiblical, yet leaders and pastors world-wide have assimilated the power based model indigenous to their culture, often to the detriment of Christianity. Jesus modeled servant leadership – something that is totally the opposite of the secular power model.
Why is this important today? Well, as noted by Tim Elmore, “[t]oday almost one half of the world’s population is 21 years old or younger, and they’re poised to lead our world into the future.” Or are they?
A recent survey conducted in the summer of 2016 by Universum studied attitudes by future employees of their needs, views and competencies relating to workplace leadership. The study involved some 18,300 respondents of Generation X (those born between 1965 to 1985), Generation Y (those born between 1984 and 2006) and Generation Z (those born between 1997 to 2007).
Not entirely surprising, each generation has different views toward leadership in the workplace and in ministry. Generation X was the least interested in leadership, possibly because they have attained an age where they can exert influence without a position.
Generation Y, on the other hand, “cited motivation to lead was mentoring others, high responsibility and challenging work”. Gen Y professionals’ most cited motivation to lead was mentoring others and high future earnings.”
High school students were the most excited and the idea of being a “people leader”. It was about relationships and service. Both Gen Y and Z see leadership as important to their future. They fear failure, but want to make an impact on their communities or organizations.
Certain countries (Japan and Nordic countries) had the least interest in leadership, partly because of the stress associated with it. This same stress is a fear of Gen Y and Z who have a fear of failure and of making mistakes. One conclusion is that our young people have been raised with too much stress and fear of failure. This was universal regardless of country of the respondents.
Tim Elmore gives a summary of the survey this way: “The good news is, more people want to be a servant-leaders among the two youngest generations than among the older generations. Generations Y and Z clearly perceive leadership as a legitimate place to make a difference and to improve the community in which they lead. Let’s go get them ready.”
Biblical servant leadership lags behind the more widely observed secular models, and most leadership training uses a power based model. I may explore some of the principles of servant leadership in future posts.
Our challenge is to address the leadership needs and wants of the next generation. They desire mentors, and, in many cases, they want and desire leadership, but don’t know how to attain it or to exercise it. If left on their own, they will adopt the cultural norm which is a default model.
A mentor can come beside the next generation and guide them through the process of becoming a leader. As I have said many times, it is a lot less painful to learn from the mistakes of others, particularly when it comes to leadership. We have the rare opportunity to influence the next generation’s in a significant way.
MENTOR TAKEWAY: The next generation will be the leaders of tomorrow. As a mentor, you can shape their concept of leadership to incorporate a servant leadership model.
FURTHER STUDY: For the Universum study can be found by clicking on the word “survey ”. You must give them your name and email, and they will permit you to download the survey for free.
By the way, Universum has some interesting articles based on its research on Gen Y and Gen Z in the workplace. Their principal goal is to help companies brand their products, but their studies cover workplace attitudes and issues of the next generation.
WORSHIP: Something different with an African beat. Listen to “Unlimited God” by Nathaniel Bassey: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UwrCydj3lec
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