Mozart was 8 years old when he wrote his first symphony.
Thomas Jefferson was 33 years old when he wrote the Declaration of Independence.
Henry Ford was 50 years old when he started his first manufacturing assembly line.
Benjamin Franklin was 79 years old when he invented bifocal eyeglasses. (1)
Everything great in our communities is built by people who believe the future is bigger than the past. Losing sight of this principle or once we stop believing that this is possible – people begin to disengage. (1)
I am not convinced that we can convince that many people that we have another “Duke Kimbrell” in our future. Believing that our greatest successes, greatest leaders, or “Greatest Generation” is behind us is a very dangerous thought – one that may paralyze our community going forward. As recent as in the past two years many conversations have arisen regarding the lack of leadership in Gaston County; discussions regarding corporate leadership, leadership of elected bodies, and not-for-profit leadership.
The root of our leadership woes to a certain degree begins with all of us and our perception of who we are, what we are, and where we are heading. For decades our community had great titans of business who later became great philanthropist. In addition, there was an active citizen framework that supported our Rotary Clubs, Jaycees, Kiwanis, Optimist, and etc… Our executives worked together through alliances and the rising stars of the community were strongly encouraged to serve the public in many different ways. This continues to be relevant but with drastically lower numbers.
Certainly a shift has taken place both economically and culturally. Millennials or Generation Y, (born 1977-1995) and Generation X (born 1965-1977) continue to still work for, serve under, and support baby boomers (1946-1964) and sometimes Traditionalists (born pre 1946) in the workforce or in the community. This concept of four generations working side by side in many different facets is certainly interesting as this has never happened in the past. Unquestionably, this is a challenge as the four generations have fundamentally different views and different skill sets. This challenge can be shifted into an opportunity if we recognize that multi-generational teams are much stronger than when isolated by age group and therefore cross the generational leadership bridge. The best organizations are changing their meeting agendas, adding generation specific sub-groups, allowing younger members to have a voice, and adding valuable online and mobile tools to their traditional offerings. (2) It will take time for newer members to cultivate benefits; but by seeing their peers benefit from key connections and lifelong relationships, through creating positive change in their communities and professional lives, we will see young people begin to re-engage.
Motivating our future leaders is essential. The idea of changing our mission, vision, and legacy may rattle a few traditionalists or baby boomers but the new generations’ need to become a bigger part of the process. Past leaders must identify and empower future leaders. Subsequently, young people need to look beyond themselves, put down the cell phone, get engaged, and demand that our future is bigger than the past!
*** Funding for leadership development is virtually non-existent. Consequently, leadership development in Gaston County is not a priority outside of very few organizations. Until the right people with influence and means decides that leadership development needs to be a top priority, it will continue to be piecemealed together and ineffective. In order to close the gap in new leadership we must spend more time, energy, and resources on organized high-yielding activities.
Founder of R.J. Schrift Private Asset Management.
(1) Rhythm of Life, Matthew Kelly
(2) Associations and Younger Generation, Thom Singer