I love the emerging generation of leaders. Millennial leaders offer much of what we need in this season of cultural upheaval. They offer collaborative thinking, questioning minds, a dialogical approach to decision making for better decisions, an entrepreneurial spirit, and a longing for mentoring and apprenticeship. We as older leaders must learn to adapt to be able to tap into all that they bring to the table. Some have scoffed that Millennial leaders lack enough commitment or enough respect to be led well.
1 Peter 5:5 states, “Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders.” Peter is in a section of his letter (5:1-5) that specifically addresses the leaders of the house churches of Asia Minor. He comes along side these established leaders, who are experiencing some measure of persecution, and exhorts them to care well for those entrusted to their charge. He reminds them that how and why they lead may be more important than what they accomplish. For they have a Chief Shepherd over them to whom they must give an account. This is timeless truth and not necessarily specific to any one generation. Therefore we all have to pay attention to our leadership and our “followership.”
Peter tells younger leaders to “be subject” to older leaders. The idea is to give due respect and reverence-to yield to their admonitions, reproof and authority. This is part of the spiritual equation for character growth. Subjection or submission is seen as a bad word in our culture. But there is a proper order and a proper understanding that serves us well. First, we are to submit ourselves to the Lord-then we are able to submit to other people. When we truly understand the Lordship of Christ in our leadership lives we begin to understand that we are fully loved, still a work in progress, and dispensable. God is the Creator and Redeemer and He will accomplish His purposes-and we have the privilege of participation. This perspective makes it much easier to be under some other human’s authority. In v.6, Peter urges all to don the cloak of humility. Humility is not thinking poorly about yourself-it is primarily not being preoccupied with yourself. And if you are not preoccupied with self then you are free to serve others and help them become successful. You are free to submit.
If you are a Millennial leader I have three suggestions for you to help you lead well to the end and to be easily led.
1. Seek out older leaders. Let this natural inclination be a blessing to you. Find an older leader whom you admire and respect and attach yourself to them. Be committed to self development and come prepared with good questions and a teachable heart. Be prepared to follow through on the advice that you are given. Learn from experience and listen for principles that you can contextualize.
2. Question wisely. It’s OK if you have a lot of questions. It’s OK if you question strategies, assumptions, teachings and even direction. It’s not OK to questions someone’s heart or integrity. Be careful of an overly critical spirit or cynicism. Be generous towards others and especially those who have been placed over you. Seek to discover the “whys” of leadership thinking from these experienced leaders.
3. Step out boldly. We need you to lead-so lead. Sometimes I see younger leaders who question everything but do little. They are good at posing new theories but weak on experiential learning. I will come along side any leader who is stepping out in faith, failing, and learning. My strong heart is to see leaders leading well. But do so with humility-not being preoccupied with yourself. Did you know that great boldness actually flows from great humility? It’s because you are not preoccupied with self and therefore free to dare. When you lead from a surrendered life, a subjected life and a humble life you can be used for great things.
Younger leaders-be easily led! It will serve you well and help to insure a long leadership life.