Leaders: Empowering the “Net Generation” Leaders

Next-Generation Leaders

As a youthful leader who strives hard to excel, I hear things like this all the time:

“Wow, you’re a diamond in the rough!”

“There aren’t many people in your age group like you.”

“I wish I had more people your age around me that acted like you do!”

The reason I hear this is because too many people in my generation are not given the tools they need to succeed as leaders. This may be blamed on current economic realities or other distractions.

But the reality, unfortunately, is that the current leaders today are not doing their job to train, educate, and develop great leaders for the future.

The Net Generation

The Net Generation is a group of very intelligent youth that are seemingly doomed to a fate of being less prosperous economically than their parents for a variety of reason

Based on what I have seen in the retail industry, this group is looked upon as lazy, unmotivated, and disrespectful.

But rather than this opinion, I say that this viewpoint comes from a failure of our leaders to ensure that they redevelop how they lead to incorporate how the Net Generation is comfortable with following.

Connected to Data

Due to the technology resources these people have had their entire lives, they are able to research and understand basic concepts and consequently can do quick fact-checking and are not easily manipulated.

This generation is not a generation of sheep, but that of wolves that looks to challenge the status quo.

As a leader, it will be a challenge to develop the next generation of leaders as techniques used in the past will not work today. For instance, the Situational Leadership Model used by Ken Blanchard is only a step in the right direction toward coaching this group in the right direction as individuals.

After working with and developing youthful leaders, I found that there has to be a strong connection and trust bond between the leader and the developing leader.

Using Empowerment as a Tool

The proper use of empowerment is the best way to connect with and develop the Net Generation of leaders; this generation of people has a sense of entitlement and superiority as they are usually well adept and skillful with technology and social networking.

When given the image of being trusted and utilized for their ideas, they are able to take ownership and develop into high-performing workers and leaders.

The idea of developing a person from this unique generation is giving them the opportunity to obtain your knowledge seemingly by themselves. As a leader you must challenge them to seek out what you already know and want to teach them, without handing the information to them and hoping that they will accept it.

Empowerment in its true form allows leaders to develop others by stimulating their mind and allowing them to come up with similar ideas and solutions which excites them and develops them to become potentially successful leaders.

A Dark Future Ahead?

Even though I talk about this topic with many leaders in retail organizations, there is still a disconnect between our current generations of leaders and our youth.

There is also inconsistency with this issue in the retail field as to how to correct this issue.

As leaders, we must understand that if we don’t start with comprehensive training and development initiatives, that our future will be led without developed leaders if there is no change in the way we lead them toward the future.

Our next generation of leaders is slim and lost; due to current economic issues and lack of understanding of how to develop others, current leaders are distracted by the present and not looking of ways to protect the future.

Some Tough Questions

  • What are some ways that leaders can better develop the Net Generation in order to integrate old leadership styles with new ones and still produce desired business results?
  • Many say that the failure is with the disrespectfulness and corruption of our youth; what are we doing to fix this issue and who is really at fault for this corruption?
  • Is the failure with the amount of focus on our future leadership or are leaders of today just unequipped at developing leaders for the future?

I would love to hear your thoughts!


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Michael R Stanford
is Doctoral Learner at UOP

He does occasional motivational speaking for community colleges
Email | LinkedIn| Facebook| Web 

Image Source: cars-10.com


9 responses to “Leaders: Empowering the “Net Generation” Leaders

  1. As a 25 year old doctoral learner I get where your coming from.
    I also know that it’s up to us to take care of our own future. Past generations won’t or can’t be relied upon to fill in the gaps and provide us with tools we don’t ask for. Very few will go out of there way to help where we don’t ask. The questions then becomes how do we ask for tools we don’t know exist.
    When I was in undergrad I retook three classes I past with an ‘A’ just because I felt that the teachers did a perticularly poor job in teaching the class so I opted for another teacher. In one case (Anthro 101) the teacher choose Anthropology for Dummies as our class text and supplemented it with nothing else. That is unacceptable in a day an age where I can browse the Internet and find notes and lectures from other colleges programs online and can see how that clad compares to mine.
    It is impressions like this that this generation needs to make. If we demand better of our teacher and the system perhaps we will find change. It has to start with us understanding the possibilities that life has available to us. Remember the girl in the movie theatre box…


  2. Right on, Pirate Girl! If the current generation of leaders (Boomers & Gen X) aren’t adequately developing the next (net) generation of leaders, shame on them! But if the net generation blames their lack of development on that fact, shame on them as well!

    With all the resources available now, a world virtually at your fingertips, finding out the “what & how” of leadership (and almost anything else) is easier than ever. But you’ve got to figure out the “who and why” yourself.

    Leaders take the initiative — whatever it takes. At the end of the day, your development is in no one’s hands but your own.


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