Tension of Younger & Older Generations & The Role You Play

June 3, 2013

There’s been a tension brewing. It’s a tension that has probably existed for many years, but is at a boiling point right now. It’s a tension of generations. And as a twenty-something, I’ve had a front row seat.

Where’s the tension?

Younger generation 

  • Discontent with where they are, wanting to go further, faster
  • Looking for an opportunity to lead now and get experience
  • Eager to change the world with new ideas and do something BIG
  • Wanting a seat at the leadership table
  • Faced with either climbing the ladder or going out and creating their own opportunities

Older generation 

  • Sees a younger generation filled with entitlement
  • Often fearful of change
  • Has wisdom and experience that the younger generation desperately needs
  • Hesitant to give opportunity and leadership to younger generation who hasn’t “earned it”
  • Uneasy about placing a still maturing younger generation in leadership and making big mistakes

Not long ago, I had an experience that stuck with me. I was in a room with 300+ leaders of my church at the time, and the speaker talking about how to create a leadership culture to develop world-changers in our church and community. The speaker looked around the room and asked “How many of you are in your twenties?” Hesitantly, I raised my hand, only to realize that mine was the only hand raised in this big room of leaders of the church. After that talk, an older friend of mine asked, “Whose fault is this that we don’t have more young leaders involved in the church? The younger generation or older generation?” My answer? Both.

There’s a tension in place that we need to deal with. In reality, it’s a leadership problem. As a twenty-something, here’s a couple things I would like to share with my peers, and the older generation ahead of us:

To the younger generation:

  • You are not your ideas. You are not what you create. You are child of God who is loved as you are, not for what you do.
  • Quit whining that you don’t have a seat at the table. Earn it. Earn it through hard work and good stewardship of every opportunity and responsibility you’ve been given.
  • Arrogance overshadows talent. It’s cancerous and will be a barrier to the opportunities you seek.
  • Lead and be led. Consistently be leading into others younger than you and seek mentors that can pour wisdom into your life.
  • Consistently over deliver. It’s a lost art and will make you stand out from the crowd.
  • Hustle. Learn the discipline of hard work in your twenties. It will pay off for years to come.
  • Be confident in what you know, but always be learning. You can learn something from everyone around you, especially those who are older and wiser.
  • The quicker you realize you’re not always right and don’t have everything together, the quicker you’ll enjoy your imperfect journey.

To the older generation:

  • We need mentors to help us realize our dreams, not be molded into your dreams.
  • We need opportunity. Now. Not later. Setup an environment where it’s ok to fail and we can learn from our mistakes.
  • Be authentic in your leadership and be open about your mistakes. We lean into it and follow authentic leaders.
  • Don’t let fear of change rob the next generation of the opportunity to bring forward a better future. It may be different, but it may be exactly what is needed.
  • The younger generation will approach work and life differently. That’s not because your way is wrong or their way is wrong. It’s just different. Learn from it. Embrace it.
  • We learn by being taught, but we learn best by experience.

What advice would you give to the younger and older generation?