What Young Leaders Want from Older Leaders
What do young leaders want from older leaders? Here is a list of eight visions that young leaders need older leaders to be able to see. When the leaders we’re following can see the following things, we can’t wait to follow.
Here’s something I’ve observed and experienced when it comes to young leaders like myself: We tend to love leadership. We consume stories of great leaders in our reading. We purchase stacks upon stacks of leadership books written by Andy Stanley, Samuel Chand, Carey Nieuwhof, and Patrick Lencioni. We attend leadership conferences, leadership cohorts, and leadership communities. We have a desire within us to transition from good to great, to work through our leadership pain, and to lead like never before. We even spend big bucks to get in the room with great leaders so we can become great leaders ourselves. We love leadership.
And for good reason, too. Without leaders, we wouldn’t go anywhere. We wouldn’t accomplish much at all. Leaders drive us and help us become something we never thought we could be. As someone who would be considered a young leader, I am where I am today because older leaders took an interest in me and helped me develop.
“I am where I am today because older leaders took an interest in me and helped me develop.”
My dad is a minister, and he is well networked with other ministers around the country. Whenever I got the chance, I’d go with him when he was guest speaking or attending conferences. And I always did everything within my power to get invited to his lunch meetings with other ministers at Skyline Chili (mainly for the cheese coneys). Before those meetings I remember my dad would often say to me, “This meeting will be longer than the time it takes to eat our lunch. Be patient and wait till we are done.”
After awhile, I knew what to expect and I grew to love it. Not only did I love spending time with my old man, but I loved the exposure I got with great leaders. I loved hearing about what their church was up to, their current sermon series, and their ministry dreams. I was privileged to many conversations among top notch leaders because I learned how to weasel my way into lunch.
“I was privileged to many conversations among top notch leaders because I learned how to weasel my way into lunch.”
When I began looking for a full-time ministry position, I knew that I wanted to serve with a leader who was focused, driven, wise, and willing to pour into my development as a leader. I wanted to work with someone who would pull me along, coach me, take me to lunch (always looking for free lunch!) and let me listen to their wisdom.
I’m 27 years old. I’ve worked for a few churches, never sat in the lead chair, and only have 5 years of full-time ministry under my belt….But for as long as I can remember, I’ve always been drawn to leaders with strong vision. The following is a list of eight visions that young leaders need older leaders to be able to see. When the leaders we are following can see the following things, we can’t wait to follow.
1. I see God (2 Tim. 1:12).
The leaders I admire most are the ones who go off by themselves to be with Jesus. You can hear the closeness to God in the way they pray. You can see they’ve been with Jesus in the way they show compassion. The evidence of the Holy Spirit is all over them in the way they deliver the Word of God. Leaders worth following are leaders who see God every day.
2. I see me (2 Tim. 4:11).
When I ran hurdles in high school, I was barely fast enough to compete. I could have been faster if I wasn’t so short! I soon realized that I wasn’t getting any taller and I finally gave it up. I could have kept running (and trying to do something I wasn’t really created to do), but I decided to lean into an internship at my home church and a part-time job which financially prepared me for college. In the same way, the leaders I respect the most are the ones who are self-aware. They have no problem sharing the load with the younger generation—especially when they realize that God has gifted the younger leader in an area where the older leader isn’t gifted.
3. I see you (2 Tim. 1:3-7).
As a boy during my dad’s lunches with other leaders, I always felt like a million bucks after one of my dad’s friends took an interest in my life. Many times, I was treated as if I was part of the meeting. It was like I had a perspective worth listening to. Today, when my lead minister calls to ask for input in big decisions, I feel valued and seen. Leaders who include the younger generation make a lasting impact.
4. I see you here (2 Tim. 2:9, 21).
One of the greatest compliments I’ve ever received was when my leader in ministry told me, “If you tell me you’re leaving, I’ll kill you.” (His humor is a little quirky, but he meant it as a compliment.) What he meant was, “We need you. I value you being on the team.”
5. I see you there (2 Tim. 2:1-2).
Great leaders can see potential in others that they can’t see in themselves. When my leader has sat down with me and said, “Here’s where I see you in the future and this is what we need to do to get you there,” the level of trust that is built is strong and true. It lets me know that he’s not primarily thinking about himself and the here and now. He’s thinking bigger. He’s thinking about Jesus’ kingdom.
6. I see us (2 Tim. 2:3).
When an older leader says to a younger leader, “Let’s work on this together,” it’s like music to our ears. It communicates value, and it also communicates the chance for mutual encouragement. It invites us both to bring in new perspectives and ideas. It means that we can both learn from each other.
7. I see danger (2 Tim. 2:22).
If you’re a fan of The Office, you might remember that episode where Kevin Malone is on the lookout for Robert California and begins yelling, “Warning! Warning! Warning!” Young leaders aren’t always the wisest. And sometimes we need an older leader to yell, “Warning! Warning! Warning!” when we are headed toward danger. I’m a better man because leaders have loved me enough to warn me about danger.
“I’m a better man because leaders have loved me enough to warn me about danger.”
I’ve grown as a husband, father, and minister because I’ve had a leader who intentionally sat down with me and lovingly said, “Work isn’t everything. Be present and be patient with your family.” I’ve grown in compassion and peace-making because a leader sat me down in my anger and encouraged me to “live at peace with all men,” instead of burning the bridge and cutting someone out of my life who wronged me. I’ve learned to weigh my words and consider how they come across because older leaders have loved me enough to say, “Your tone is too sharp,” or “That joke is not God-honoring.” When you see us headed towards danger, give us a warning so we can learn from our mistakes and grow.
8. I see them (2 Tim. 2:25-26).
We are ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are to go and make disciples. Our mission is people. Does your strategy and vision reflect that? Are you willing to go against tradition to reach more people? Are you willing to have hard conversations? Are you willing to let go of your ego for more people to come to Jesus? Do lost souls drive your ministry? Like Jesus, can you see the people and have compassion?
Great leaders have vision. Vision that sees God, sees themselves, sees us, and sees the overall mission of pointing people to Jesus. At the end of the day, young leaders are just looking to be discipled. We want to have ownership in the mission. If you’re an older leader, then we are looking for you to pass on your wisdom, to share your knowledge, to equip us for what is to come, and to encourage us in the faith. And when old can lead the young like that, we’ll move the mission of God forward in ways we never thought possible.