For years, CCL has been hearing from our program participants about how they would love to have benefited from a leadership development experience earlier in their lives. Right now, the next generation of leaders is already in the workforce, and the challenges they will face going forward are immense. Do they have what is needed for success?  Have they been able to develop the competencies organizations need?  Are they getting the development experiences to prepare them to lead?

Recently we polled our Leadership Insights panel on these questions, asking (among other things) what excited them most about young people in the workforce today and what concerned them most.  It turns out what excites them most about young people is their:  (1) comfort and skill with technology  (2) creativity and fresh ideas, (3) global awareness and tolerance, and (4) adaptability.  At the same time, among the concerns voiced were: (1) the sense of entitlement/lack of work ethic young people seem to have, (2) their lack of ability to communicate face-to-face (3) a lack of decision-making skills, and (4) their lack of learning opportunities, such as mentoring, positive role models, and training.

Based on the above, it can be argued that young people in the workforce today are better prepared to lead than were current leaders when they first started out.  Certainly the future of leadership is a future in which technology will play a huge role, in which we will need all the creativity and fresh ideas we can find, and where tolerance of difference and adaptability are basic to leading effectively.  And certainly a group of people with these valuable skills and perspectives coming into the workforce will be eager to make significant contributions sooner, rather than later.  To be sure, young people lack important leadership capacities, as well as the self-awareness that comes with maturity and feedback. However, many respondents voiced concern that these same future leaders are not getting the mentoring and training they need to improve leadership capacities, nor do they have a sufficient number of positive role models from whom to learn about ethics, good judgment, or authentic leadership.  This certainly needs to change.  Most who responded to our survey took the view that leadership development should begin in middle or high school and should be offered as part of a child’s regular education.  But that is not happening in most schools for a whole variety of reasons.

What ideas do you have about how to do a better job of developing young leaders?  What challenges do we face and how might we overcome those?  I welcome your comments!

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