There is a tension that young leaders face. We think we know it all. Our minds are chalked full of great ideas, visions for the future, and the sometimes delusional thinking that we can achieve the impossible. And in our vigour and intentionality we lead out hoping that by sheer will and determination our current reality will change.
(to read more about other leadership tensions, this is a blog post I wrote for the Youth Cartel).
But there is often times something standing in the way that we have failed to be aware of...tradition.
I know that tradition can be a curse word in today's post-Christian, trans-modern and flexible culture. Young folks sometimes cringe when they hear someone who is older than them talk about what they used to do back in the "good-old-days."
There is, however, something true about tradition.
There are 3 ways young leaders can honour the tradition of the culture so they can lead towards the future:
- Know the history - Every community has a story. Knowing the history of what went well, what went poorly and the lessons learned along the way will provide a young leader with the posture of honour & respect. Arrogance is death to a young leader. Demonstrate a willingness to learn by uncovering the story of the organization you serve with.
- Celebrate the good in everyone - A friend of mine once said, "You always remember the past more fondly or more poorly than what it really was." It can be true that we humans have a tendency to sensationalize the past in a more favourable light when it suits us. However, it also must be said that there are amazing things that have taken shape before our arrival that are worth celebrating. Discover these historical moments for your community and be intentional on how you celebrate them. Honouring tradition in this way will give you the credibility to help shape the future history of your organization or community.
- Contextualize your vision for the future - Use common language. If a 6 year old doesn't understand it, a 90 year old won't find it fascinating. Speak in terms that can be easily understood. Is it compelling? Is it memorable? If the answer is no to one or both of these questions then you've got some work to do. Be creative. Find ways to make it stick. Borrow language from other thinkers. You don't have to dream something up out of thin air. Pray, listen & test the language you'd like to use.
To honour and to lead. Two habits of a highly effective young leader.