How do you lead the young?

- Francis J. Kong (The Philippine Star) - November 17, 2013 - 12:00am

I have news for you. Generation X people are getting old! Ha!

There was a time when the Gen X would laugh at their seniors who were leading them in the workplace, accusing them of being Jurassic because of their age. Now they find themselves in the same predicament as younger people are coming in and calling them “geezers.”

In the US, the word “geezer” refers to an old man, particularly one who is either cranky or eccentric. (definition courtesy of urbandictionary.com) It’s not a compliment.

As I do consultancy work with companies, I hear the same complaints from senior leaders:

1. These young people are so “flighty.” They normally don’t stay longer than two or three years in a company.

2. The Generation Y people are so disrespectful. They don’t know when to keep their mouths shut.

3. This young generation is so materialistic, and they’re so impatient.

And the list goes on.

The question now is, how do you lead the young? Here’s a one-liner answer: You lead the young by not managing them!

I posted the following in my Facebook recently:

“There are more and more Gen Y people entering the marketplace, and they are extremely gifted and dynamic. Conflict comes when seasoned leaders of an older generation do not have the leadership skills to handle them. Gen Y is a great resource that should be tapped. I enjoy them and learn so much from these young ones. They will be our future leaders soon.”

One obviously irate Gen X’er replied:

“I have to argue though that they may have ideas and full of energy to do everything, IT DOESN’T MEAN THEY’RE RIGHT, OR THEY CAN, OR THEY SHOULD. This statement MAY send an incorrect signal to those Gen Y’ers. I believe it would be better if you’ve added to your statement that they should still learn how & when to use those ideas and energy for what is right and for the best. Learn from the “older generation” of leaders.”

By the way, capitalized words aren’t only for emphasis, but they represent “screams” in FB culture. What followed was a very long thread of conversations and arguments.

I also got comments from the younger generation. Let me zero in on just one: “Frankly this is the first positive post I’ve read on Gen Y people. All others seem to be very critical of our generation…”

Noticed the tension?

Leaders should be trained on how to lead the young (including their own kids), while the young should be trained on life values, and how to learn from the experienced and the wise.

So how do you lead the young? By not managing them! Management deals with control, while leadership is all about influence. People don’t want to be managed, but they want to be led. And young people (even those who aren’t) would always want to be led by leaders who inspire them and not by people who exasperate them.

Senior leaders in our country’s top business organizations tell me that they admire their leaders (from an even older generation) because those leaders inspired them to be the best that they could be. They may have forgotten their heroes’ particular skills or talents, but they sure remember the feeling of being inspired to achieve the greatness that makes them the leaders that they are today.

Leadership is very important. As I constantly say in my training sessions, “Our people will forget what we’ve accomplished for ourselves, but they’ll never forget what we’ve done for them.”

(Develop your leadership skills and life skills by spending two whole days with Francis Kong on Nov. 21-22 at the EDSA Shangri-La Hotel. Call Inspire at 09158055910 or 632-6310912 for details. Connect with Francis via his Facebook page – www.facebook.com/franciskong2.)

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