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Why Young Leadership Is Essential to Your Organization

Why Young Leadership Is Essential To Your Organization

College aged people and 20 something leaders have a bit of a bad rap. If you listen to leaders over 40, the complaints come quickly:

They don’t work hard enough.

They seem to want it all, now.

They have a hard time distinguishing between work and play.

They have an entitlement attitude.

What on earth happened to grammar, spelling and etiquette?

I’ve seen a few leaders that fit that description for sure, but many who are so different than that. Half of our staff is under 30, and I have to disagree with the assessment of the upcoming generation. Sure, there are slackers out there. But I know some 50 year olds who should get it together at some point. (And besides, you can train people to spell. Quickly.)

Here’s why I think having a good representation of next generation leaders in your organization is essential:

They bring enthusiasm and optimism to their work. They just don’t have the weight of the world on their shoulders yet, and often the problems of life haven’t surfaced the way they do to those of us in our thirties and beyond.

They understand next generation trends. I try to stay current, and for a person with 17 years in leadership, I think I do all right. But I’m not 22. Younger leaders see things differently. They grew in a culture that I didn’t. Having their voice around the table gives me a much better sense of what resonates and what doesn’t. If you want to connect with the emerging generation, having the emerging generation around your table is irreplacable.

They challenge assumptions. Because they are trying to figure out how the world works, they ask great questions and challenge assumptions. They haven’t made peace with the status quo. As a result, some of the best insights and solutions for problems will come from next generation leaders because they see things differently.

They learn fast. A 23 year old can go from good to great in a few years. And many are motivated to do it.

They are technologically smart. My friends think I’m tech-savvy, even a bit a tech-obsessed. But put me around an 18 year old or 25 year old and I feel like the person who can’t figure out why their VCR keeps blinking 12:00. I have no proof, but I think somehow they are capable of learning things faster than previous generations were. They were raised in a fast moving world, and it shows. Leverage that.

They are your succession plan. Senior leaders often like to run with their peers. I get that. So do I. And you need wisdom and maturity in any organization. But if you are not stacking your team with leaders 10, 20 and in some cases 30 years younger than you, you are not positioning your organization for future relevance or success.

They’re fun to work with. They love fun. And who wants to work in a boring workplace?

They are passionate about mission. They don’t want their job to just be a job. If you lead a church or a non-profit, chances are your young leaders will own your mission, vision and values deeply. They want to make a difference in the world, and they are passionate promoters of causes they believe in – which can turn out to be great for your organization.

That’s what I see in the young leaders I work with. What are you seeing? And how have you made young leaders an essential part of your organization?


  1. […] will not stay long at work or causes that have little greater meaning or purpose. I wrote more on why you need young leaders in your organization here.  Is your mission and vision clear, compelling and […]

  2. […] will not stay long at work or causes that have little greater meaning or purpose. I wrote more on why you need young leaders in your organization here. Is your mission and vision clear, compelling and inexhaustible? 10. Personal mission. People […]

  3. […] why-young-leadership-is-essential-to-your-organization […]

  4. susan on June 9, 2013 at 8:46 pm

    awesome! All of your posts are so encouraging.

  5. Derek Turner on January 4, 2013 at 10:26 am

    Thanks for putting into words what is in my heart! We love working with the next generation and putting them in touch with the older as well. When you have an environment where the “older teach the younger” then both end up benefiting.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 4, 2013 at 4:40 pm

      So glad it connected Derek. I love working with teens and twenty somethings.

  6. […] young leaders this week. We started withthree secrets for young leaders and then reflected on why it’s essential to get young leaders into your organization […]

  7. Marty on October 17, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    Thanks, Carey, great read!

    I’ll take the age bracket one step further; I’m 32 and the WP at a good size church, and one of our music ministries is a live band for kid’s church. I recently put a 14 year old and a 15 year old in direct leadership of the kids’ band – an already large roster of young musicians that feeds our main-stage roster – and in two months they’ve blown me away. They’ve tripled the number of kids involved (which now includes training on Saturdays for even younger up-and-comers), and a new music repertoire. Great leadership literally coming from kids!

    • Carey on October 19, 2012 at 9:28 am

      Love this Marty. Thanks!

  8. Adam Janes on October 17, 2012 at 12:46 pm

    Thanks for being so postitive about young leaders! I wish the Churches I have been a part of were as encouraging and forward thinking as you!

    Grace and Peace

    • Carey on October 19, 2012 at 9:28 am

      One day Adam. One day.

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