The more you know about leadership, the faster you grow as a leader and the farther you are able to go as a leader. Learning from the experiences of others enables you to go farther, faster. It is that simple truth that inspired me to write Next Generation Leader.
As the pastor of a church with a median age of thirty, I find myself surrounded by next generation leadersómen and women who have the potential to shape their generation. They are eager to learn. They are committed to personal growth. And given the chance, they will attempt things that my generation only dreamed about.
The success of North Point Community Church has provided me a window of opportunity. For the time being, a segment of this remarkable group of men and women is interested in what I have to say about leadership. So I consider it my responsibility to hand off what I have learned while I have the chance.
If much will be required from those to whom much has been given, then much will be required of me. For I have been given much in the way of example, opportunity, and training.
I grew up in the shadow of my father, Charles Stanley, a gifted communicator and accomplished leader. Yet in spite of his professional responsibilities he never missed a basketball game or failed to carve out time for extensive summer vacations. I was nurtured by a mom who saw it as her mission to prepare me to leave the nest with the security and skills necessary to thrive in this unpredictable world.
By the time I was fourteen my parents had pretty much quit making decisions for me and thereby forced me to decide for myself and live with the consequences of my decisions. I never had a curfew. My dad asked me when I planned to be home, and thatís when I headed home. To my knowledge, they never waited up.
I was given lots of freedom. I was also given the full measure of responsibility that went along with that freedom. When I got my first speeding ticketóa whopping two weeks after Iíd received my licenseómy dadís only comment was, ďBetter slow down.Ē No lectures. No suspended driving privileges. He figured the fine was punishment enough.
I was no angel. In many respects I was a typical preacherís kid. But my wise parents gave me very little to rebel against. Instead they loaded me up with what, looking back, appears to be an almost naÔve amount of trust.
In hindsight, I can see that my parents raised me to lead. In terms of actual practice and principles, more was caught than taught. I donít remember a single conversation that centered on the subject of leadership. But through the vision they cast and the opportunities they provided, I was given an incredible head start as a leader.
For that reason, I am convinced that it is my responsibility to pass on what I know about leadership to the generation coming along behind me. So it has been the habit of my life to carve out time for the next generation, the capable men and women who will eventually catch, pass, and replace me.
When I was in college, that next generation was high school students. When I was in graduate school, it was undergrads. When I landed my first real job, I invested in young men headed into ministry. In addition, I spent ten years meeting with small groups of high school seniors, pouring into their cups all I could from my own.
This has been my lifestyle. For many of those who were part of my groups, it has become their lifestyle as well. A handful are now in full-time ministry. One serves as the worship leader at our church. Another is now my stockbroker. Some fly airplanes; some have their own companies; most are married, with children. A few have dropped off the map.
I approach this task of handing off what I have learned with the full knowledge that in the days to come the next generationís gifts to this world will certainly eclipse whatever I have had to offer. But, then, thatís the point. In leadership, success is succession. If someone coming along behind me is not able to take what I have offered and build on it, then I have failed in my responsibility to the next generation.
I began this project with a series of questions:
1. What are the leadership principles I wish someone had shared with me when I was a young leader?
2. What do I know now that I wish I had known then?
3. Of all that could be said about leadership, what must be conveyed to next generation leaders?
I identified five concepts that serve as the outline of this book. These represent what I believe to be the irreducible minimum, the essentials for next generation leaders:
Leaders must channel their energies toward those arenas of leadership in which they are most likely to excel.
The leader of an enterprise isnít always the smartest or most creative person on the team. He isnít necessarily the first to identify an opportunity. The leader is the one who has the courage to initiate, to set things in motion, to move ahead.
Uncertain times require clear directives from those in leadership. Yet the temptation for young leaders is to allow uncertainty to leave them paralyzed. A next generation leader must learn to be clear even when he is not certain.
You may be good. You may even be better than everyone else. But without a coach you will never be as good as you could be.
You can lead without character, but you wonít be a leader worth following. Character provides next generation leaders with the moral authority necessary to bring together the people and resources needed to further an enterprise.
If God has gifted you to lead, then lead you will. Thereís no stopping you. More than likely, people have already recognized your gift and are lining up to follow you. My passion is to help equip you to become a leader whose life is marked by qualities that ensure a no-regrets experience for those who choose to follow; a leader who leaves this world in better shape than he found it.
You think that is a stretch?
Think about it: Individuals from your generation will surface as leaders in every fieldóbusiness, art, politics, economics, math, technology, medicine, religion. Those men and women will shape the future during your lifetime. Nobody knows who they are. You might as well throw your hat into the ring by leveraging your gifts and opportunities for all theyíre worth. Embracing these five essentials will enable you to do just that.
So letís begin.