Young Leaders-Be Easy To Lead

I love the emerging generation of leaders.  Millennial leaders offer much of what we need in this season of cultural upheaval.  They offer collaborative thinking, questioning minds, a dialogical approach to decision making for better decisions, 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 enough commitment or enough respect to be led well.

1 Peter 5:5 states, “Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders.”  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 human’s authority.  In v.6, Peter urges all to don the cloak of humility.  Humility is not thinking poorly about yourself-it 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 to the end 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, a subjected life and a humble life 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.

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  1. 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

    • 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.