That is how many distinct generations are living in North America today. If you travel back to previous centuries, you would find three generations providing leadership at any given time. However, with the advance in technology, the speed of change, and longer lifespans, you are now living among five generations.
- The Greatest Generation (those who fought and won WW II) represented by those 74 and over.
- Baby Boomers represented by those age 55-73.
- Generation X represented by those age 39-54.
- The Millennials represented by those age 25-38.
- Generation Z represented by those age 9-24.
Brad Szollose is the author of a book called “Liquid Leadership: Multi-Generational Ideas That Are Changing the Way We Run Things.” It is a worthy read, and he shares seven laws to follow if you desire to be effective at leading cross-generationally.
These are his seven laws of being a Liquid Leader.
- A Liquid Leader places people first. This is great wisdom for ministering cross-generationally and cross-culturally as well. Trust is built through relationships, and relationships flourish when the leader puts people first.
- A Liquid Leader cultivates an environment where it is free and safe to tell the truth. Authenticity is more than a buzz word. No generations like things that are fake, least of all fake leaders.
- A Liquid Leader nurtures a creative culture. A willingness to pilot, try new things, experiment, and exercise creativity – while being sensitive to long established traditions and organizational culture – is important. Creativity is essential in order to bring generations of differing values and priorities together.
- A Liquid Leader supports the reinvention of the organization. The cross-generational leader understands that change will be necessary in a rapidly changing world. He or she not only embraces change but leads the way with incremental forward progress. “Incremental” implies always moving forward but at a pace that does not overly frustrate long-tenured members or staff.
- A Liquid Leader leads by example. Here’s another example, no pun intended, of a quality embraced by all generations. Lead the way with actions as well as words. Inspiration is important but will not occur if the leader is not living it.
- A Liquid Leader takes responsibility. That is what makes one a leader. It is not up to someone else to show the way or to get the job done. A leader takes ownership – whether at the head of the organization or from within – and makes things happen.
- A Liquid Leader leaves a legacy. This will happen if the first six laws are integrated into one’s leadership. The impact will be both immediate and long lasting.
Szollose has written an entire book illustrating and instructing based on those seven laws, and I recommend the book to you. However, there is wisdom in simply viewing the list and assessing your own leadership based on what you see.
The Psalmist reminds leaders of the legacy they should desire for the generations that follow.
“God, You have taught me from my youth,
and I still proclaim Your wonderful works.
Even when I am old and gray,
God, do not abandon me.
Then I will proclaim Your power
to another generation,
Your strength to all who are to come.”
Psalm 71:17-18 (HCSB)
Today, more than ever, it is important that you develop leadership skills that help you to be effective cross-generationally. Consider his list, and self-assess yourself in order to maximize your leadership.
Steve Parr serves as a state missionary and chief strategist for the Georgia Baptist Mission Board.