Young Leaders: Be Easy To Lead

medium_5857077333I love the emerging generation of leaders. Millennial leaders bring much of what we need in this season of cultural upheaval. They offer collaborative thinking, questioning minds, a dialogical approach to decision making, an entrepreneurial spirit, and a longing for mentoring and apprenticeship. We as older leaders must learn to adapt to be able to tap into all that they bring to the table. Some have scoffed that Millennial leaders lack commitment or enough respect to be led well.

“Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders.”  1 Peter 5:5

Peter is in a section of his letter (5:1-5) that specifically addresses the leaders of the house churches of Asia Minor. He comes along side these established leaders, who are experiencing some measure of persecution, and exhorts them to care well for those entrusted to their charge. He reminds them that how and why they lead may be more important than what they accomplish. For they have a Chief Shepherd over them to whom they must give an account. This is timeless truth and not necessarily specific to any one generation. Therefore we all have to pay attention to our leadership and our “followership.”

Peter tells younger leaders to “be subject” to older leaders.

The idea is to give due respect and reverence–to yield to their admonitions, reproof and authority.

This is part of the spiritual equation for character growth.

Subjection or submission is seen as a bad word in our culture. But there is a proper order and a proper understanding that serves us well. First, we are to submit ourselves to the Lord, then we are able to submit to other people. When we truly understand the Lordship of Christ in our leadership lives we begin to understand that we are fully loved, still a work in progress, and dispensable. God is the Creator and Redeemer and He will accomplish His purposes–and we have the privilege of participation. This perspective makes it much easier to be under some other person’s authority. In v.6, Peter urges all to don the cloak of humility.

Humility is not thinking poorly about yourself.

Humility is primarily not being preoccupied with yourself.  

And if you are not preoccupied with self then you are free to serve others and help them become successful.  

You are free to submit.

If you are a Millennial leader I have three suggestions for you to help you lead well and to be easily led.

1. Seek out older leaders.  Let this natural inclination be a blessing to you. Find an older leader whom you admire and respect and attach yourself to them. Be committed to self-development and come prepared with good questions and a teachable heart. Be prepared to follow through on the advice that you are given. Learn from experience and listen for principles that you can contextualize.

2. Question wisely.  It’s OK if you have a lot of questions. It’s OK if you question strategies, assumptions, teachings, and even direction. It’s not OK to questions someone’s heart or integrity. Be careful of an overly critical spirit or cynicism. Be generous towards others and especially those who have been placed over you. Seek to discover the “whys” of leadership thinking from these experienced leaders.

3. Step out boldly.  We need you to lead–so lead. Sometimes I see younger leaders who question everything but do little. They are good at posing new theories but weak on experiential learning. I will come along side any leader who is stepping out in faith, failing, and learning. My strong heart is to see leaders leading well. But do so with humility, not being preoccupied with yourself. Did you know that great boldness actually flows from great humility? It’s because you are not preoccupied with self, and therefore free to dare.

When you lead from a surrendered life before God, a subjected life before other leaders, and a humble life regarding your view of yourself–you can be used for great things.

Younger leaders-be easily led!  It will serve you well and help to insure a long leadership life.

(photo credit)

6 replies
  1. destinoeric (@destinoeric)
    destinoeric (@destinoeric) says:

    Gary,

    Thanks for the post. I’m not sure if I’m too old to be considered a Millennial, but since I have a question in response to your post maybe that qualifies me :)

    In #2 you state that it is OK to question “strategies, assumptions, teachings, and even direction”. I agree and think you have great advice that we should beware an overly critical spirit. As someone new to leadership it definitely can get old just feeling like people question your every move.

    My question is: why do you say it is not okay to question someone’s heart or integrity? What do you mean by that? While I definitely would never want to defame anyone, I am wondering how to reconcile your statement with instances in Scripture where it seems that people are rightly questioned for their heart. Some examples that come to mind would be Jesus and the Pharisees, Paul and Peter in Galatians 2, or most of the OT prophets. Could you explain a little more maybe how those situations are ok but how others would not be? What would be the differences that make one acceptable but another not?

    Thanks,
    Eric

    Reply
    • garunn
      garunn says:

      Eric, Thanks so much for your comments and your question. I don’t think your example of Jesus questioning the Pharisees is a good one. In Mark 7 Jesus certainly does question their heart as he quotes Is. 29:13 and says their heart is far from him. But they were the religious elite and in strong contrast to Jesus-they were not functional leaders over him. With Peter and Paul-I would argue what Paul calls into question was Peter’s actions in withdrawing table fellowship from the Gentiles in light of the Jews. Again, I am not sure you could say Peter was a functional leader over Paul-they were probably more peers-Paul an apostle to the Gentiles and Peter an apostle to the Jews. And OT prophets were living out a specific role in warning and calling Israel to repentance. My post was looking at the every day examples we find ourselves in. Sometimes I see Millennial leaders questioning a leader’s heart and integrity because they don’t like a certain direction or action or think that a leader is out of touch. Since we can’t see the heart as God does-there are better ways to lead up. Lead up through practical questions that facilitate dialogue-this can be helpful to either open the eyes of a leader towards something better-or provide understanding for the follower. But don’t make your fist move a question of heart motives or integrity. So I am trying to exhort younger leaders not to jump to conclusions (which I see too often) but rather to take a more mature path of dialogue without conclusions. A better biblical example over a very difficult issue might be Paul and the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15. Paul leads up well and obtains a favorable result that moved the gospel forward-but he did not sit back and question the heart and integrity of the Council-who were functional leaders over his early ministry. I hope this is helpful-you bringing this question to my attention makes me realize that maybe my writing could have been more clear-and that is good feedback for me-so thanks for diving in.

      Reply
      • len crowley
        len crowley says:

        Gary
        I believe you are right concerning not questioning heart, integrity or motive. Its the hidden thing we do not know. Whereas one’s actions are visible to all. We often challenge a person’s motive solely based on OUR perceived assumption. We “assume the worst first.””He did thus and such BECAUSE his motives aren’t right.” This plays into the adversary’s determination to divide the Body. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus tells us both to NOT judge one another (I take this to mean do not assume/challenge motive or heart) while within the same context telling us that by one’s fruit you will know them. (I take this to mean one’s outward actions, the visible. We may appraise those.)
        Paul rebuke’s Peter for his action at Antioch, but does not go so far as to challenge his motive. Paul only notes Peter’s visible actions were not consistent with the Gospel of Grace. Jesus alone may challenge motive since 1) He is God, 2) He knows what is in the hearts of men and 3) at the end of the age He promises to judge the motives of men’s hearts.

        Continued blessing in Submission. It is the singular pathway that aligns us with God’s will from cover to cover. Remember the first sin was a refusal to submit — a resistance to divinely aligned Authority.

        Reply
  2. Patrick Martin
    Patrick Martin says:

    Gary,
    Thanks for this. As a 28 year old in our organization, I appreciate this and your heart in thinking about us and reaching out to us. I value your thoughts, and appreciated you coming down to Black Mtn and speaking to the staff. Could I poke around and dig a little more with one of your suggestions? I love your encouragement to seek out older leaders. I have two follow up questions. First-how do I consistently come up with good questions? What are some consistently fruitful questions? I don’t want to get bogged down in specifics (but maybe I need to). Secondly-what do you do when older leaders seem hard to come by, or hard to attach to? I’ve spent the past few years trying to pursue and cultivate a number of older leaders in my local context, and frankly, it feels like pulling teeth sometimes. I’m not sure if they don’t feel like they have much to offer, or if they don’t think I’m a great use of their time, but it’s been tough sledding. It feels like I’ve had to pursue most self-development by looking for mentors from afar (books, talks, podcasts, etc), but I at least like to think that I’d really rather pursue this primarily life on life. Thx for any thoughts you have!

    Reply
    • Gary Runn
      Gary Runn says:

      Patrick, thanks so much for your comments. I loved my time with you guys in NC–great time of fellowship and learning for me. Your questions are excellent ones, and not uncommon. You raise a good point–I think there really are two kinds of mentors that we need in life–those that are mentors from afar and those who are personal and close up. Those that are from afar can be simply leaders whom we admire and have regular access to their thoughts, writings, messages. I would count Tim Keller in that camp for me. Thanks to technology we can also have mentors from afar that can be more personal thanks to Google Hangout or Skype. Have you considered mentors that you know or would like to pursue that are not immediately in your context but might serve as a mentor via these means? Don’t become discouraged in trying to find local mentors–it can certainly take time to find the right one–one that you value but also one that values you and your development. Keep praying and keep asking. Another approach you can take is to seek out mentors for specific purposes–and therefore for specific time frames (like just for 3 months, 6 months or a year)–like a leadership mentor, or a mentor towards marriage, etc. That might free up a potential mentor to consider that this is not for a lifetime. I do think the onus is on the one being mentored to come with an agenda and a set of questions. I think some of the best questions for mentors are “How” and “Why” questions. They are the easiest to answer and less threatening because they can flow readily out of a person’s life. How a person does something or achieves something–or why a person does or believes something. “What” questions might appear a little more threatening because they may require special knowledge that a potential mentor does not feel capable–like theological questions or ministry related questions. But you are really after a mentor to get to the practical side of life from someone who is a season or two ahead of you–so How and Why questions will take you there.

      Helpful? Thoughts?

      Reply

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