5 Things Older Leaders Can’t Stand About Younger Leaders

Young leaders

What are your thoughts about young leaders these days?

I’ve been at countless breakfasts and meetings with people my age or older who, about a decade ago, started complaining about younger leaders.

The part that puzzles me is that I love working with young leaders. They have been the heart of my team for over a decade now and I’ve found them to be (honestly) pretty amazing.

And yet, Gallup says that 70% of all Americans (which includes a lot of Millennials and some Gen Z) are disengaged at work.

So what gives?

Today, I share the second part of my survey of over 900 leaders that tells a lot about what older leaders really think about young leaders.

Part 2 of My Survey of 900 Leaders

A few months ago, I surveyed over 900 CEOs, entrepreneurs, engineers, office managers, teachers, accountants, pastors, project managers, church staff, EAs and many other kinds of leaders as part of my research.

First, I asked younger leaders to share their biggest complaint about older workers, and I shared the results in a blog post called  The Top 5 Things Younger Leaders Can’t Stand About Older Leaders. (#1 complaint? Older leaders aren’t open to change).

I didn’t stop there though.

I also asked (Gen X and Boomers) to tell me what frustrates them about younger leaders (Gen Z and Millennials) by completing this sentence:

My biggest complaint about younger leaders at work is…

They…uh, told me. I was honestly shocked by the 900+ answers I got.

Just like younger leaders gripe about older workers, older workers have plenty of thoughts about what’s wrong with young leaders.

I sifted through all the responses and summarized 5 common complaints older leaders have about younger leaders.

As you read through, remember, as a Gen X myself, I love young leaders and have built thriving teams with them. And most of the readers of this blog are Millennials.

I also think a lot of these complaints fall into two categories: misunderstandings and easily remedied. I’ve got some strategies and hope throughout this post and some more significant help available at the end of this post.


Brace yourself. Here we go…

The top 5 things older leaders believe about younger leaders are…

#1 They’re Lazy (Get Off Your Phone)

By far, the biggest complaint older leaders have about young leaders is that they see them as lazy. The idea that young leaders are lazy came up often throughout the survey.

Here are just a smattering of comments bosses made about their younger team members:

They want off work whenever they want

Very liberal with work and work hours

Lack of internal drive

Flakiness, inconsistent work ethic

Focus and drive, or lack thereof

And how about these two comments?

They are actually LAZY

Get off your phone

The #1 complaint older leaders have about younger leaders: they're lazy. Click To Tweet

Well, that’s tough, isn’t it?

Like I said, I have had some incredible success with young leaders, and I don’t think it’s just that I found the few that don’t fit this category.

Here’s one of the biggest challenges in the workplace today.

Older leaders confuse how young leaders want to work with whether younger leaders want to work.

Older leaders confuse HOW young leaders want to work with WHETHER younger leaders want to work. Click To Tweet

Things have changed, a lot. In an age of mobile devices and the ability to access information anywhere, anytime, 8-4 doesn’t make sense anymore. Younger leaders know this. Older leaders resist it.

The truth is the reasons that a lot of people had to be in the office between 8 and 4 have dissolved in the last decade. Older leaders have been slow to catch up on this.

A lot of young leaders really want to work, really want to hustle, and the fact that they’re not in the office or visible doesn’t detract from that.

Young leaders aren’t lazy. Lazy people are lazy.

There’s a difference. And there’s a good smattering of lazy in every generation. It’s not just a youth issue.

A final reminder: the phone is a work device these days.

In an age of mobile devices and the ability to access information anywhere, anytime, 8-4 doesn't make sense anymore. Younger leaders know this. Older leaders resist it. Click To Tweet

#2 They Act So Entitled

Older leaders were often baffled at how entitled young leaders seemed.

Again, from the survey:

It all about them.

They seem very entitled. They want off work when they want and don’t want any of the responsibility of how to cover for their duties while they are out. They also act like the rules don’t apply to them and want our organization to change the policies and rules to fit their situation instead of the other way around.

They are entitled. They feel the world owes them for their service.

They want a spot at the table but don’t want to put in the time to get it.

They just want to start at the top without paying their dues.

Lack of work ethic, their desire to free flow and not want to be boxed in by office hours or even being in the office, especially when production is poor.

Not all, but some… want to work part time hours for a full time job. They leave even if there are still things to finish for the day.

Those comments are loaded.

And a quick word to younger leaders. Gratitude is the opposite of entitlement. Grateful leaders aren’t entitled leaders, and entitled leaders aren’t grateful leaders.

Make your gratitude your attitude and you’ll see the environment change. You will likely even get more of what you want.

Gratitude is the opposite of entitlement. Grateful leaders aren't entitled leaders, and entitled leaders aren't grateful leaders. Click To Tweet

Often though, misunderstandings like the ones listed above happen because leaders misunderstand each other and because the old rules of 8-4 don’t work anymore.

You may have a lazy worker or two in the mix if this is a persistent issue, but in my experience, for the vast majority different coaching and leadership can turn this around quickly.

Why? Because flexibility is the future—the flexible workplace is the future workplace.

Flexibility is the future. The flexible workplace is the future workplace. Click To Tweet

#3 They Listen To One Podcast And Think They’re An Expert

The sense that young leaders think they know everything also showed up a lot in the survey.

But, to be fair, so did the perception that older leaders were arrogant and know everything.

Here’s are some of the comments older leaders made about younger leaders:

They listen to 1 podcast and they’re an expert.

They are experts at nothing but have an opinion on everything.

There is often an idealism that feels like pressure, like I am not living up to all the podcasts they listen to.

They think they know everything

The idea that everything that the old hat has done is boring and not worth understanding or trying to see if there is something that can be understood about that disrespectful – expect to do their thing, their way – not receptive to their environment or others who may do things differently. Don’t look for help but “wade through” in size 9 boots! Tend to think they already know everything. Rude (according to my ‘old school’ ways)!

These comments encapsulate another shift that’s happened in the last decade.

Information has been democratized.

Companies used to control learning because information was scarce and expensive. You had to get permission to go to a conference or subscribe to a magazine or enroll in a graduate degree.

You used to have to go to information. Now it comes to you. Free.

And of course, young leaders being digital natives access that information more freely and naturally than some older leaders do.

A few cautions for all leaders (pride was a big issue for older leaders too).

First, a little bit of knowledge is dangerous. We live in an age of strongly held, weakly formed opinions. Too many people’s world views are three questions away from collapsing. So learn broadly and be slow to draw conclusions.  Wisdom takes time and input.

Second, humility is one of the hallmarks that distinguishes great leadership.

People are more likely to want to know what a humble leader thinks than what an arrogant leader thinks.

We live in an age of strongly held, weakly formed opinions. Too many people's world views are three questions away from collapsing. So learn broadly and be slow to draw conclusions. Wisdom takes time and input. Click To Tweet

#4 They’re Just Not Committed

Older leaders have noticed that young leaders don’t stick around as long as previous generations.

Some older leaders noted:

Their lack of commitment

They want too much flexibility in their schedule.

Complete lack of adherence to any policies. 🙂

Younger leaders are not committed to the company. They are there until times get tough or they don’t like a policy change and then they leave.

Actually, that is true. They’re not nearly as committed to the mission as previous generations.

But there’s a reason.

Young leaders want to work for a mission. They authentically crave meaning and purpose more deeply than Boomers and Xers do (not saying we don’t, just saying it’s different).

If you want to see why purpose matters so much to young leaders, listen to my interview with two of my team members who explain how the mission keeps them energized and on the team.

Young leaders are committed. They’re just more committed to the mission than they are to the bottom line or a leader’s ego.

Truly focus on a bigger purpose, and the best ones are far more likely to stick around. This is the age of mission-driven and socially responsible enterprise. And the age of entrepreneurship where you can more easily start your own organization than ever before. And many leaders do just that.

A final word, even if you lead a not-for-profit or church and therefore have a bigger mission, that doesn’t make you bulletproof.

Many self-focused or toxic leaders still behave like the mission was to serve them personally. That’s an exit cue for young leaders.

Young leaders are committed. They're just more committed to the mission than they are to the bottom line or to a leader's ego. Click To Tweet

#5 They Don’t Value Experience

While all of these spring from a similar theme, older leaders also complained that young leaders don’t respect or appreciate them.

Again, just a smattering of the comments leaders submitted on this issue:

Don’t seem to have respect for the value of experience. Assume that older workers’ methods are not as good as today’s higher-tech methods.

They’re disrespectful and expect to do everything their way.

Don’t understand the importance of life experience as well as letting people with life experience speak into their lives.

They are often not respectful of older leaders expertise, experience and commitment.

So I get it. I’ve raised kids and had lots of young leaders around me for years now. Sometimes it can feel that way.

But overall, I’m actually astonished at how open young leaders are to spending time with me and learning from me. I’ve led small groups with young adults and found them exceptionally open and respectful. My staff is 15-30+ years younger. Same thing. And in the leaders I meet via this blog, my podcast and my books, I find the same thing.

There are three things I’ve found helpful in fostering a respectful dialogue.

First, I need to continually remind myself that respect has to be earned, not demanded.

Second, respect is mutual. If young leaders pick up that I don’t value them or understand them, why would I expect them to be open to me? (Side note: You may have noticed I’ve taken the side of young leaders in this post…not just because they’re the future but because they’re the present. And I’m 54. It’s my job to understand them.)

Third, I’ve found that asking questions opens up far more doors than giving answers. Obviously, writing a blog like this as a series of questions probably wouldn’t help many people, but in my in-person dealings I’ve found that asking questions and really listening opens up doors that otherwise would slam close. If you don’t understand someone, don’t write them off. Ask them (non-judgmentally), that’s really interesting. Can you help me understand more?

Being open to young leaders makes them open to you. They can smell contempt a mile away.

Young leaders are committed. They're just more committed to the mission than they are to the bottom line or you. Click To Tweet

So… in light of all this? What do you do?

What Are You Seeing? 

Well, as I said in my previous post outlining complaints about older leaders, I know this is a loaded post. And yes, I have sided a bit with younger leaders. I think that’s our responsibility as their bosses. And like I’ve said, I’ve seen amazing results from young leaders when I’ve done that.

The goal is to be helpful. If you don’t see the problem, you can’t fix the problem.

The goal is to get us all working together well to move the mission forward.

So with that in mind, anything else you see or want to add that can help us create workplaces that have a much higher impact?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

5 Things Older Leaders Can’t Stand About Younger Leaders


  1. Jerry N Watts on January 18, 2020 at 1:37 pm

    I am a member of the REALLY OLDER GENERATION and honestly, a new reader to your work and writings. There is much that you do and say that I will be able to share with the churches, staff, and people who I have responsibility for, as I am an area Missionary. Your post of ” 7 Subtle Signs Your Church is Dying” (in bullet form) will be the first time I introduce you as one of my resources to those I routinely share with. Having already read a number of your posts, I see that God has given you a unique and unusual gift to look into a situation and strategically think about creative ways to make it better. Thanks for your influence, work, and writing.
    In both your posts about “Younger and Older” leaders, it was obvious to me (as has been stated and you admitted) that the complaints of the older gen are dismissed while the complaints should be heard. It is regretful that you seemed (perhaps you didn’t mean to be, but remember I’m a new reader) to be dismissive of the older generation and their ‘inflexibility.’ However, what I would add to your info, from just one old person, is that I still LOVE change and NEW THINGS in the Lord’s Ministry. The caveat I would offer is this: ‘that it makes sense, has not caused major division in recent days, and will not cause a rift to be formed in the congregation.’ I suggest this is one of the major rubs between the young and older set of leaders, one has the experience to see how a new approach which the young leaders might think is the best thing since bubble gum might be the very thing that almost destroyed the church a few months before he (the young leader) arrived and the older leader is indeed attempting to protect the congregation from repeating that pain. It may not be that the older leader is inflexible because most of them know that ‘no one ever successfully drove a vehicle (I.E. car, airplane, bus, business, or ministry) while focusing on the ‘rear-view’ mirror. However, it may well be that if the younger leader hears the older leader, that together they can fashion an approach that doesn’t destroy the congregation in the process. I love interacting with the younger generation, but not every one of their perceptions or ideas are winners (neither are mine).
    All the things you heard about the younger and the older generation seems to be right on point, and neither needs to be dismissed.
    Scripture teaches us about our elders (and I’m not talking about the position, but rather the station in life). My dad is in his 80’s and the respect that I carry for him will never end because of being taught the Biblical truth of respecting those who are my senior. I could name other things, but the one thing, which saddens me the most, is that they seem to have little to no respect for those who have gone before them (except maybe guys who lived in the 16th or 17 centuries). I believe it is this lack of respect which is the culprit for so many other things on both sides of the discussion. You said, “Respect is earned, not demanded” and I completely agree. However, the very fact that an older leader IS THE LEADER who brought the young man or women on board should, in itself, garner some respect from the younger leader. Sometimes this happens, sometimes it doesn’t. When it doesn’t, it seems from your word that the older guy is in the wrong. With respect, I cannot get my mind, heart, or theology around that.
    Schedules, laziness, rules, 8-4, entitled, expectations, are all things which could and should be talked through by establishing good personal relationships, but that is a two-way street. I have had some young staff people, who were not open to this. It was nothing personal with me, it was just they didn’t want to connect with someone older than them. Admittedly most of the time, this is not the case.
    My response about this could fill pages and pages as it relates to ministry, but I’ll end with this and pray that you have been able to discern my heart and that while I may disagree on ‘some’ of the ways you approached this subject, I am not speaking from anger or a mean spirit, but really from a broken heart.
    When it comes to the work of His ministry, we need all hands on deck working together, no fractured. The lost world watches us and every time an older leader and younger leader get crossways, the impact of the gospel suffers because the perception of the gospel is harmed.
    Grace to you.

    • Joshua on December 30, 2020 at 10:44 am

      As a young millennial leader, I really appreciate your comment! The point that really stood out to me is what you said about protecting the congregation from seemingly good ideas. I have observed this several times in our church staff; the young leader will have a method or system of doing things and when the older lead pastor objects there is tension. In the young leader’s mind, the lead pastor is overstepping his bounds and needs to stay in his lane. And in the lead pastor’s mind, the young leader doesn’t have the wherewithal/experience to know that the idea could be hazardous for the congregation. This has caused more than a few scuffles. Obviously the answer is humility and teachability, and you’re right…I think the younger generation should be the ones taking the initiative to humble themselves and learn from those whom have gone ahead of them.

      I think one comment that I would like to make is about respect for leadership. I and many other millennial ministers I know have actually been around long enough to see “how the sausage is made” in ministry and it can be really disheartening and disillusioning. My perception is that older generations were able to march to the tune of “respect the position not the person” with a little more dignity than my generation. I frequently hear the sentiment that the pastor or ministry leader is “God’s anointed” (even if it is not explicitly stated that way). Gen Xers and Boomers really like the book “A Tale of Three Kings” that parallels the pastor to a kingship level. In my experience, millennials do not subscribe to this kind of thinking. Furthermore, when an older leader power-trips (as we all do) and become defensive about how they hear from the Lord or experience etc., it furthers that negative narrative and creates a caricature in the young leaders mind…making respect very shallow. My generation needs to be careful not to coalesce an older paradigm for respect as an abuse of power and inauthenticity. I suspect that there are even significant theological rifts in understandings of “calling” and “anointing” between generations that much of this stems from.

      It’s complicated. I think that the older generation probably feels threatened by the new in some regards and defines “respect” more broadly than the younger generation. A millennial would probably say that the associated expressions of respect are being courteous and polite, speaking positively of someone behind their back, and understanding clear lines of authority. I think the older generation would define “respect” (if not verbally at least in their hearts) as all of those things plus a margin of trust, “Follow me and have my back”, and maybe a hint of adoration. Lastly, I think (I could totally be wrong here) that the older generation is more susceptible to wanting the level of respect for who they aspire to be rather than who they actually demonstrate themselves to be. Especially when compared to previous heroes of ministry, there seems to be this unspoken standard of respect that is due when the older leader reaches a certain age or station in life. It reminds me of the “My dad got a Rolex for working for the company for 50 years and all I got was this Amazon gift card.” culture shift that we have experienced. Objectively, things were way more institutionalized than they are now. So I guess I’m saying that the younger generation may not be as intentionally disrespectful as the older perceive, we’re just products of our culture. That is not to say we should concede to the culture; just the opposite…we are commanded to grow in brotherly love and mutual submission. Please help us! Much love.

  2. Michael on December 5, 2019 at 2:05 pm

    Carey, even seen your points from a perspective from another continent (Europe) you nearly always hit the nail on the head. You also look for solutions and not accusing. That make your articles very helpful. Thank you.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on December 6, 2019 at 9:56 am

      Thanks Michael! Human nature is human nature, and culture is culture. I’m learning that so many of the issues we struggle with are more universal than we realize.

  3. Jim on December 5, 2019 at 11:03 am

    It’s been interesting to read your two-part post regarding the tension between older leaders and younger leaders. And, like many of the commenters, I’m dismayed that your takeaway from both surveys is biased toward the younger generation’s concerns.

    Being the same age as yourself, I see and continue to live in the tension of the middle – a young whipper-snapper to some and an old fogey to the others. However, I think you did a dis-service to the younger generation by muddying the water with some flawed analogies.

    First by comparing older leaders and younger leaders. And yet almost all of your anecdotes refer to an older senior leader and younger staff. Senior pastor and staff are not the same. Boss and employee are not co-equals. Of course a good boss seeks to create a healthy, creative, satisfying environment. But the primary concern for a leader is to accomplish the goal – making widgets, making money, or changing lives. Younger staff will focus on what they want if they’re employees, but catch the vision if they’re leaders. A boss/employee relationship is more like a parent/child relationship. And no loving parent would seek to accommodate the wishes and whims of their child if they see danger on the horizon. You mold and mentor a child. And the child isn’t always happy about it.

    Secondly, and a major pet peeve of mine, is how churches too often flip-flop between being a business or an entrepreneurial mission. You can’t have both, choose one. If the church operates with a business model, there are rules, responsibilities and a hierarchy. If 8-4 are the business hours, you put in the time. If there are weekly staff meetings, you attend the meetings. If the church model is more entrepreneurial, you do whatever it takes to get the job done. 8-4 doesn’t mean anything, you are either effective or you’re not.

    I’m self-employed and work in a creative industry. Inspiration doesn’t always strike between 8-4. I can sleep in after a late night. I can brainstorm in a coffee-shop. But as an entrepreneur, the reality is that if I don’t produce, I don’t eat. So many of the young leader’s comments suggested they want an entrepreneurial work environment. But there aren’t too many churches I’m aware of where salaries are tied to productivity/effectivity. It’s not like pastors get a bonus for every 100 new members. The old adage in my industry is “Good. Fast. Cheap. Pick two.” Perhaps working in ministry should be, “Flexible. Meaningful. Secure. Pick two.” If you want the perks, be ready to take the risks, old or young.

    Finally, I think you did readers a dis-service by not pointing out the irony of how the complaints lodged at “the other generation” are true for both. Are young leaders open to “changing their mindset about working structured hours” or are they set in their ways about Starbucks and iPad chats? Are new ideas the only good ideas? This reminds me of the whole “hymns vs. choruses” debate from years ago. Old is old and new is better. Are older leaders willing to debate if Sunday school or VBS is effective anymore? Are younger leaders willing to concede that modern culture isn’t always better?

    Ultimately, it comes down to this – Christ is the head of the Church. Leaders in the Church are servant shepherds. You’re enemy is not the older/younger shepherds. It’s the lion who’s out to steal, kill and destroy. Either humbly serve in the role God has entrusted to you with a grateful heart or step aside. Hint, you’re not a leader if only people who agree with you are following.

  4. Mike J on December 5, 2019 at 2:42 am

    Thanks for your insight! I am a pastor over a staff that is 6 people and 2/3 are under 25. I have been leading for 1 full year at this location and really my first time leading teams with younger leaders (<25yrs). It has been challenging and I desire to see these leaders excel and use their gifts both as pastors/leaders/parents/and friends. I am not sure what to do with limited resources as a campus pastor of a larger church. Most of staff are PT and younger because I cannot afford multiple FT people right now. How do we avoid being the lid, but ensure that excellence and consistency are carried out?

    I would be interested to hear what you have to say in regards to leaders my age (40) and dealing with the challenges we have and how we accomplish effectiveness. My best worker is a 19 yr old leader who is going great, but I am already hearing after 4 months that he wants a little more pay. He's worth it, I want to keep him, but not sure I can afford it. The question is possibly, how can I not afford it and the potential growth. Let me know your thoughts, even if in a personal message?!

    Thanks for the impact you have made in my life and those above and under me!

  5. Dave Z on December 4, 2019 at 10:19 pm

    Two points:
    1) For years I have heard that one of the key elements in a thriving church is a long-term pastor. Not sure how well that aligns with point #4.

    2) As I was reading this, I remembered a young man that applied for a position at our church. He was 19, no real experience or education, yet he was requesting a high salary and various perks, such as an iPad, very flexible schedule, and some other stuff. We did not hire him. He was soon working at Starbucks for $10 an hour, with a very specific schedule, and no iPad. But hey, free coffee!

    My point is that most jobs simply cannot provide the level of flexibility that, according to this article, millennials desire. Any retail position will require very specific hours, same with restaurants, delivery companies, manufacturers, grocery stores, and other fields. Not to mention educators, or first responders.

    Imagine these ideas in the military. “Captain Smith, I want to work from a coffeeshop 2 days a week.” Yeah, right!

    IOW, their desires are unrealistic. Churches may be better able to accommodate these ideas, but there have to be limits. The staff at our church has a lot of freedom and flexibility, but as I see it, society in general cannot offer that, and sooner or later, millennials (or anyone else) will have to come to grips with the fact that the workplace does not exist to serve them.

    How much more should that be true for those who are supposedly servants of God, and followers of Christ. Why do we think it’s about what WE want? Maybe all church staff should read Paul’s descriptions of ministry in 2 Corinthians several times a year, just to be reminded. Especially chapter 11:23-29. Paul felt “the daily pressure of my anxious concern for all the churches.” We want iPads to take to the coffeeshop.

  6. Paul Smith on December 4, 2019 at 8:47 pm

    Hey Carey, I’ve been an immensely grateful recipient of your ministry for a few years now. Thank you for your work. But I have to push back on this one.
    You’ve done two posts which, on the surface, appear to be about hearing from both sides in leadership and workplace tensions: older leaders and younger leaders. But both posts are just blatantly pro younger leaders. I’m a Millennial by the way and have all the same complains about older leaders as the rest of the young leaders you surveyed.
    In the first post, which was about complaints younger leaders have against older leaders, your response was essentially, “Hey older leaders, these are legitimate complaints, you should be humble and listen. Times are changing.” Then in this post, complaints older leaders have against younger leaders, you just direct it back at older leaders again, “Hey older leaders, your complaints are NOT legitimate, you’re just confused and it’s all misunderstandings. You should be humble and listen. Times are changing.” But even as a young leader I see all the things older leaders complain about and I think they ARE often legitimate.
    Seriously dude, you can’t mediate between two parties and then show an obvious massive bias towards one party. You want older leaders to come to the table and discuss working effectively with younger leaders? Why should they come? You haven’t heard them, you’ve dismissed them. A complaint that younger leaders often have about older leaders.
    I think it’s actually pretty telling that all your staff are under 40. That means the only voice on your team over 40 is you. You literally have no other voice on your team, outside of yourself, with the wisdom and experience that comes with age and the perspective of older generations. You have a total monopoly on that. Having read a lot of your material over the years I kinda think that you yourself would question that if it was someone else.
    Sorry for the really direct tone, we have no personal relationship and yet here I am publicly criticising you on the internet. Certainly not my preferred method of communication. But I’m concerned that you’re going miss what you’re trying to achieve. Instead of getting older leaders to the table on this to work better with younger leaders I think you’re more likely to lose them with your obvious bias and dismissal of their concerns. You’ve lost me on it (not as a subscriber etc, but specifically on this topic) and I’m a young leader. You might find that you end up with mostly younger leaders at the table in another echo chamber, and instead of bridging the divide you’ve just widened it.
    I hope I’m wrong.
    Also, although I’ve been quite critical on this particular topic, (and I hope you consider what I’m saying) I want to reaffirm that your work has been HUGELY influential on me, I have massive respect for you, and I can’t thank you enough for everything you’ve sown into the Kingdom of God!
    Paul Smith

    • Dustin George on December 5, 2019 at 8:31 am

      I agree fully with your observation on the seemingly slanted tone. As a long-time listener and reader, I was a little more than a little bit disappointed with the general one-sided nature of the two posts as well.

      As a Gen X Lead Pastor (with a team made up across the spectrum from Boomers to Gen-Z), I know that, even though we approach each person as an individual, there are some tendencies that earmark each generation and have seen them manifested in the workplace. Some of those general characteristics are strengths, and some are challenges. Every generation brings new positives; every generation possesses areas that require growth and change. No one is fully-matured here on earth, and no one joins any organization having all the answers. Whether one is 22 or 72, it requires courage, humility and surrender to God to lead well…it also requires courage, humility and surrender to God to follow well.

      Thank you for pointing out the direction the posts took, and thank you for phrasing your response with grace and truth.

      • Carey Nieuwhof on December 6, 2019 at 10:06 am

        Hey Dustin,

        Thanks for this! See my note to Paul…it has a few more things in it that the posts don’t cover.

        If you can hear what leaders tell me privately, it might help you understand why I’m pushing harder than normal on these posts. Trying to make a difference for the next generation. And for the sake of older leaders too.


        • Dustin George on December 9, 2019 at 3:32 pm


          Thanks for the explanation. I get that organizations can’t afford to continue to lose talent (regardless of the age), and yes, there are some leaders who are unwilling to change…and I know the passion and the urgency behind your words. As a Gen-Xer, I have seen older leaders resist change to the point of ineffectiveness and irrelevancy, but I have seen some who adapted and remained effective (while maintaining their own individuality as well). I have seen some younger leaders who were (sadly) given the backseat and robbed of opportunities to lead, and that mistreatment led to their departure. I have also seen other younger leaders bail suddenly when natural struggles or ministry difficulties arose because they were unaccustomed to working under stress or time constraints.

          I think some of the pushback on the slanted tone (from multiple readers, judging from the comments) comes from the nature of the titles of the posts. One would read them with the assumption that there would be an evenhanded approach (because that is the approach we have seen you take so many times in your posts when addressing some very sticky subjects). It seems more like a title of “How to Tell If You Are a Change-Resistant Leader” or “Why Promising, Younger Leaders Leave” would have been slightly more fitting.

          Maybe sometime we can see a post along the lines of “Five Things Younger and Older Leaders Can Learn From Each Other” or “Creating a Work Environment Where Multiple Generations Thrive.”

          After all, regardless of the age, for those in a ministry environment, we are all in this thing together; we are the Body of Christ.

          I truly appreciate you for all you do and for sharing your wisdom Carey.


    • Carey Nieuwhof on December 6, 2019 at 10:04 am

      Hey Paul,

      Thanks for your note and for the tone. I really appreciate it.

      Paul, I think your analysis is very fair. You’re right, I have tilted to young leaders in this post. And I didn’t fully explain why.

      So here’s why: I have had SO MANY conversations with people my age and older who are not willing to change that I’ve pushed hard against resistant older leadership in these posts. I also fear a lot of organizations are losing great young talent as a result. Young leaders leave quickly and many are starting their own thing, perhaps out of frustration rather than even gifting. So these are ‘corrective’ posts. I’m hoping they push older leaders into action. It doesn’t have to be this way!

      And it’s a good point that I don’t have the benefit of age on my current staff other than me. What I don’t talk about often is I have a small advisory board of three whose ages are between 39 and 60. So that’s a bit of an older crowd. Plus I have an abundance of friends and colleagues over 40 who speak into my life and leadership.

      So for sure, the whole picture isn’t in these posts, nor should you know all that. But that’s what’s going on in my head as I write this and in my life.

      Paul, I hope this helps a bit and thanks for commenting and for your leadership.


  7. Lori on December 4, 2019 at 7:21 pm

    I agree with the positives of working with young leaders (I am a young Gen-X). However, there is a trend that fits above that should be addressed. My husband is a highly trained, in demand, specialist engineer, and his current position is a manger of others in the same field for a large defense contractor. He interviews hundreds of people every year for positions ranging from interns to 25+ years of experience. The overwhelming majority of those under 30, especially those right out of college with only their bachelors degrees, demand, not request, to be hired and paid at levels far above their educational and work experience. They have no understanding that large, behemoth companies, do not alter their pay grades and requirements for a generation. 22 year olds demanding a six figure job. This is not isolated. This is the norm for the last five years. He does his best to attract younger employees who show engineering and leadership potential with signing bonuses and other perks, but they just don’t get it. When they do accept a job, at annual evaluation time, they want 15-20% pay raises and threaten to leave even though they won’t find anywhere else better. He has spoken to dozens of other managers within and outside his company, who are reporting the same experiences. While not necessarily a major problem in ministry (my job), even there I see a little of it. Just some additional thoughts.

    • Dawn on December 5, 2019 at 8:49 am

      This does sound like these younger employees have unreasonable expectations. And I have also certainly worked with some who do.

      But before dismissing an entire generation of younger professionals as entitled, my first honest reaction is: are you sure this company really is offering current, competitive starting positions/compensation etc? Has their offers kept place with inflation etc?

      One of the most negative experiences I have had on an intergeneration team is when the boomers on the team kept insisting that the working conditions etc were equivalent to what they were offered when they started out there 30 years ago. (NOT TRUE). The millennials (who made up 1/3 of the team) had to advocate strongly to change some really frustrating, outdated practices (most of the gen-xers on the team agreed with us, but it was the boomers that had a disproportionate degree of influence…) and yes, they insinuated, didn’t say it, but implied that we were entitled and lazy. The changes we requested did change, but by then I had already decided to move on. (And yes, found a much more efficient and conducive working environment elsewhere).

      May not be the same situation at all. And yes, some younger colleagues are inexperience and entitled. But sometimes there is a reason… (and I have been in that boat, so I get it…)

    • Carey Nieuwhof on December 6, 2019 at 10:09 am


      That’s very fair! And a real problem.

      I do believe in a living wage, but I think what happens is people eventually realize that the market will bear only so much.

      The other factor is if they threaten to leave and actually get the pay/pay raise they are ‘demanding’, maybe the current salary grid the company is offering is out of date. Does that make sense?

      I know a lot of young engineers who are highly paid—shockingly so. Things are changing.


  8. Josh Fortney on December 4, 2019 at 12:02 pm

    Thanks for doing the leg work on this. The information is GOLD! As a millennial, I can’t disagree with what you’ve found. I think this is great wisdom we can ALL learn from as we work together for the kingdom.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on December 4, 2019 at 12:31 pm

      Thanks Josh. There’s learning on all ends for sure. I do think a lot of it is older leaders don’t understand younger leaders.

  9. Monica on December 4, 2019 at 12:01 pm

    I find it interesting that even though all these complaints might be valid and based on actual experiences, it boils down to the question of “how’s that working out for you?” If young leaders can do all those things that irritate older leaders but still have successful and meaningful careers and life balance, then why wouldn’t they continue to be that way? Maybe that’s the heart of most of the complaints–a jealousy that these young leaders have figured out a different way that seems easier, more flexible and more enjoyable. And it’s serving them well!
    Change in behaviours happen when people feel the pressing need for the change. Maybe it bothers older leaders that their way of working created a desire for change in their younger colleagues. It would be tempting to feel insulted by this, but a wise and humble older leader would celebrate and appreciate a younger leader’s innovative way of working smarter, not harder.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on December 4, 2019 at 12:30 pm

      I think there is a LOT of truth in what you’re saying Monica. Thanks!

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