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Leader, Teacher…Learner?

By Jodie Swee

I recently had an opportunity to speak to 500 educators in the high desert of Barstow, California, at their Back-To-School rally. I was so honored to be able to encourage and challenge them as they get back to work bringing up tomorrow’s leaders. It also caused me to reflect on how important it is to be aware of the fact that we are all in a position to teach AND learn from someone else. And there is no better time than the start of a school year to remind ourselves of this.

The early 21st century is a great time to be in the workforce. There is an abundance of skills, experience, knowledge, passion, and ideas to be harnessed for success. Does your experience reflect this? If not, you’re missing out and it might be because you’re not utilizing the diversity of the generations present in today’s workforce.

[ctt_hbox link=”Satde” ]Be a teacher. Be a learner. Be a leader that succeeds in the 21st century.[/ctt_hbox]

We are living at a unique moment in history when each generation has something to learn and teach. Baby Boomers, who make up 25% of today’s workforce, bring wisdom and experience. Generation X, the second largest generation in the workforce with 33%, bring flexibility and understanding. Generation Y (Millennials), which will make up 40% of the workforce by 2020, bring passion and knowledge. Generation Z, which makes up 12% of the workforce and growing fast, brings a healthy dose of reality and a hunger to compete.

If harnessed and shared, these generational strengths could make your organization a force to be reckoned with. But, and this is a big BUT, there has to be a posture of humility within your work culture that creates space for this to succeed.

Too often, each generation operates as if they are the only one with the solution. Baby Boomers expect Millennials to just grow up and get with the program. Xers are waiting for someone to recognize what they bring to the table, and Gen Y and Z are just waiting for Boomers to retire and go away so they can change everything. This is a position of conceit that will not benefit anyone. It divides us and handicaps our success. Not only that, but we will miss out on being a part of something great.

Last year my husband, John, bought a 1965 International Harvester Scout. For those of you who do not know what this is, as I didn’t until I had one sitting in my garage, it’s a car. It looks like an old-school Bronco. This Scout had been sitting in a Baby Boomer’s garage for over 10 years gathering dust. The body was in great shape, but it didn’t run.

John had this car towed to our house and has been slowly fixing it up. With no previous experience with cars, he used YouTube videos to get the car running. I have to admit, I was impressed!

Eventually, he reached a point where he got stuck. He knew what the problem was, he even had a YouTube video on how to fix it, but it just wasn’t working. So he called Bruce. Bruce was a friend who had been working on cars for 30 years. He came over, got under the hood, and had it fixed and running within minutes.

[ctt_hbox link=”bKoA0″ ]If harnessed and shared, these generational strengths could make your organization a force to be reckoned with.[/ctt_hbox]

Bruce is a Baby Boomer and John is a Millennial cusper, which means that he was born in the year when the generation label changed from Gen X to Gen Y. John had the passion to get that car out of storage and had the knowledge to get it fixed up. Bruce had the experience. Together, they got this honey of a car working and on the road.

This is a great example of what happens when generations are willing to work together. Not only willing but humble enough to accept that someone else might have what it takes to help you succeed.

Be a teacher. Be a learner. Be a leader that succeeds in the 21st century.


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