I am from what is labeled “Generation X” and cusp with the current “Millennial”, as generation experts would have it. In recent years I have had the opportunity to lead and manage volunteers, employees, and students of all personality types and generations, and I have come to some conclusions, as shortsighted as those may be. I grew up in a household where I was taught hard work and persistence will pay off. At the same time, I grew up in an education system that taught me what I was worth from the start, as if my dreams or desires dictate my salary or what I deserve. I think that is where the parents who raised our generation did not foresee the possible snowball effect in their parenting.
Parents Create A Foundation
My parents were great and believed in me despite my MANY faults and shortcomings and my dad was a big proponent of letting his kids know they could do anything they wanted to do. My mom and dad fought to make something out of nothing. My dad was a first generation immigrant from Guatemala and came here to make a life for himself when he was 18. He went to school off and on, got a factory worker job in his early twenties and still works there to this day. He stayed there some 40 years and his loyalty has stuck with me more than he will ever know. He worked from an hourly job that promised no future, and he proved himself and is now plant manager and oversees a large amount of the production of patented polymers and chemicals. Not only that, my dad worked hard and completed his bachelors in his late 50’s, showing a great work ethic and diligence.
My mom never graduated high school, got married to my dad at 17 and had me the same year. She raised me and my sister at home for years. She worked hard at everything she committed to. She worked for a Christian School when I was in 3rd grade and my sister and I began attending there. My mom assisted in the small children arena, she worked the lunch program and she worked hard (and my Dad) to get us in that school and to keep us there. I do not remember one day that my mom ever complained about the school, her job, her work or any co-worker or superior. She studied hard and got her GED while I was young and kept us in our books so we would not be drop outs in the future. She always had a smile on her face when she served! She battled breast cancer from when I was 15 years old and she fought so hard to never make her sickness the center stage of our home. She was a champion of Christian character and her faith and willingness to seek God’s face despite bad reports and multiple remissions going south.
I remember when I resigned a position in Southern California in 2001 and I knew God told me to do it, but I had nothing to fall back on. My wife and I did it in faith and we felt alone in that decision. My mom told me she was proud of me and that God will provide, my parents paid for us to come to Pennsylvania and we stayed with them some months and I fought God so much. I interviewed for some 25-30 jobs, nothing. I had some of the strangest and best opportunities in ministry and nothing came about. My mom was getting what I thought was just another cycle of treatments, but it would be her final battle. I got to drive my mother over an hour each way to treatments for some months and our conversations were so meaningful. She taught me more in 2.5 months, than I could learn in a few years at a seminary. She taught me Christ, not using Greek, Hebrew or Aramaic… she was my City On a Hill. I remember, we got back from chemo one day and about 2 hours later, my mom is hand scrubbing the aluminum siding outside the house. My wife and I helped her and asked her to stop, but she would not.
My dad laid down his life and had a 1.5 hour commute so he could give my mom their first house in her 40’s. My dad showed me what it was like to be married, to lead his home and love his wife and children. They both taught me that my value was not based on my bank account, my real estate investments, or my credit report. My mom passed away soon after they bought their first home and I was able to preside over her funeral and see hands raised for salvation, which was her requirement for her service. I loved my mom so much and miss her to this day, she died way too early at 42 years old. She was a champion, period. My dad, is a champion, period.
They encouraged me often through times of my greatest failures and downfalls. I stole from them, I disrespected them, I broke their hearts at times and yet there they were, unconditionally, to love me and raise me. So this brings me to my crossroads of development when it comes to leadership. I often battle what I would call entitlement, but my parents example helps curb that most of the time, I hope.
I have had the opportunity to observe a generation slightly younger than me in recents years and I realize I need to lead them differently. The millennials are a generation of entitlement and specialized focus. I grew up knowing I had to have an understanding of anything and everything to make it, to adopt a utility player mentality just in case. I felt the need to always go the extra mile because that extra mile may be the moment of opportunity and victory. The millennials choose to focus on specific areas of occupation or hobby and less generalizations. To lead this generation, it requires a different approach to leadership. I will write more in the coming days about how I see leadership in today’s generation, but wanted to provoke thought… How will we lead a generation that I believe could be lost to ENTITLEMENT. What are your thoughts? What do you see?