Future Leadership – Bright of Dim?

future_leadersI love speaking to groups. I started out as a minister many years ago before entering the corporate world. Now I speak at conferences and events of all sizes and types. I lead webcasts for SHRM and HR.com. I’m a contributor to ERE. I have a monthly audience of about 1500-2000 HR executives and leaders who listen to my thoughts and ideas around Talent Acquisition. But today was an interesting challenge. I went to my daughter’s school and spoke to a class comprised of sophomores, juniors and seniors who are focusing on business.

It’s funny how much I had to change the lingo and terms that I am so accustomed to using every day with business leaders. I think we sometimes forget, regardless of the industry we are in, that not everyone lives in the same world as us and doesn’t understand what we are talking about, even though they may look interested and shaking their head in approval. I shared with them the importance of preparing and setting themselves up for successful careers now and the things they could be doing now – even though they may not have a clue what type of job they may have in the future. A few of the key points were:

  • Do something that you love. I asked them to just make a short list of things that they love to do and wish they could find a way to get paid for it. (It was amazing how many people wanted to know how they can get paid to sleep – but there is a career for that!)
  •  Find a mentor to help you prepare. This part was interesting because they can see the value in it, but they aren’t really sure how to go about finding someone that they would match up well with. It will be interesting to see what/if anything they do with that piece.
  • Networking. I used a spider web as an example. If a spider simply shot one strand of web out there, it would never catch anything. But by shooting multiple strands in multiple directions, eventually it builds a wall where things can’t help but to stick.
  • Practicing business communication. Young adults and teens today are accustomed to interacting more electronically than interpersonally. So when you put them in a face to face situation, it’s hard for them to look you in the eye, sit or stand confidently, and speak at ease with someone (even in a casual environment).
  • Internships. The only true way to know if you would love doing something is to go do it. While some may see that as wasted time if it turns out to be something they didn’t enjoy, we spoke of the lessons that can be learned through the experience and the freedom it provides to know that is one less thing to have to target for a career.

There were other topics discussed as well, but that was the meat of the conversation. My takeaway is that our society sees kids today as growing up more quickly than previous generations. I admit that I had that take on them as well prior to today. And while I do think that they do have more opportunities to do more things, they’re still kids. Do we really want them to grow up more quickly, or should we encourage them to be kids as long as they can? I mean, we all know that once you take on the “adult” role, responsibilities, mortgages, car payments, credit cards…it’s really hard to be a kid again (even at heart). There were some very sharp kids in the classes I led today, and I’m going back tomorrow to lead two more classes. I think they’ll be fine when all is said and done, but I still wonder when their journey should begin.

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One response to “Future Leadership – Bright of Dim?

  1. I have met so few real “leaders” but, have met tons of managers, supervisors or administrators the vast majority of whom were simply yes men whose greatest strength was the sycophantic art of the schmooze and being charming. I think this is the result of America morphing from a producer state into a customer service state. Employers, organizations and agencies don’t seem to care as much about productivity as they seem to be focused on customer service.
    The vast majority of leaders I’ve met seem to get stuck in middle management or team leader positions at best but, very few ever seem to advance beyond that. The system seems to favor the fore-mentioned, sycophantic yes men.

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