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Preparing your millennial and Gen Z leader for the digitized decade

Danita Bye is the author of Millennials Matter: Proven Strategies for Building Your Next-Gen Leader.
Danita Bye is the author of Millennials Matter: Proven Strategies for Building Your Next-Gen Leader.

Being a leader in today’s world of digitization, robotics, and artificial intelligence poses a myriad of unfamiliar complexities. One day, the top news story is about the necessity of installing the latest technology to reduce costs, save time, and develop innovative business models, so we focus our attention on keeping up with digital demands. The next day, the bold-lettered headlines highlight the war for talent, so we take up that challenge – to attract, engage, and retain top-tier Millennial talent, the fastest growing segment in our workforce.

In the midst of fears that we won’t be able to keep our focus on these diverse and shifting priorities, what is our call, our opportunity, as leaders, especially as it pertains to building the next generation of wise, character-based leaders?

Digitization Calls for a Different Leadership Approach

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David Kinnaman and Mark Matlock, in Faith for Exiles: 5 Ways for a New Generation to Follow Jesus in Digital Babylon, report that 64 percent of regular churchgoers between the ages of eighteen and twenty-nine, have dropped out of church involvement.

How many of those Millennials are in your organization and life? I believe that, embedded in this trend, is an invitation to us as experienced leaders: How might we engage emerging leaders, both spiritually and in their work challenges?

Kinnaman and Matlock suggest that experienced leaders need to tap into “vocational discipleship,” guiding emerging leaders to infuse their occupation, what they do to earn a living, with their vocation, what they were called to do by God.

Scripture reminds us about the critical role of leaders…

Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.Proverbs 11:14 (ESV)

Now, more than ever, your leadership matters. Our up-and-coming leaders need solid counsel on how to live vocationally in order to wisely navigate the ever-increasing digital world. We are being called to raise the bar on our own leadership practices. Being an engaged leader, holds the key to unlocking the secret of leading well in this new era. It becomes highly relevant where the rubber-meets-the-road: your Millennial’s job. 

Here are two best practices for being an engaging leader whose faith is relevant in the everyday work world.

Prepare Your Emerging Leader for the Digitized World

We know that a career path might be unpredictable. After leaving school, I had a carefully mapped out plan to become a medical missionary in Africa – or some other faraway country. Then I ended up in sales! I’m certain that your career path had some unexpected turns in it also. The experts are saying that, for the Millennial and Gen Z generations, the surprising career twists and turns will happen even more quickly.

How might you assist your emerging leader to prepare for the digitized world?

  • Shine a bright light on their strengths. Create a learning pattern for them of recognizing, re-creating, and refining their strengths. This will prove invaluable in navigating the shifts and turns that happen in the marketplace.
  • Spark engagement. Invite your next-gen leader into brainstorming and problem-solving opportunities.  This creates a win-win scenario, because their perspectives may challenge you to revisit outdated paradigms. In addition, they gain the critical skills of creativity and collaboration when they hear and see how you leverage your servant-leadership perspective, your character, confidence, and collaboration, in your decision-making processes. These are the skills they need to navigate the unknowns.

Wise counsel that recognizes emerging patterns and trends will be paramount in guiding our emerging leaders to discover their vocation. You will be instrumental in turning their career surprises into vocational opportunities for growth.

Develop Their Untapped Potential

The experts are telling us that reskilling will be important to remain flexible in the digital age. By tapping into the potential of your emerging leader, you are creating a culture where previously undiscovered talents and passions can lead to a career path where they will undoubtedly thrive.

How might you lend a hand so that they discover their untapped potential?

  • Listen well in order to lead well.  Spend time listening to what your emerging leader is saying with both their verbal and non-verbal communication. This is in contrast to doing what might be natural for many of us - telling them what they should do. Active listening uncovers hidden insights  into how you can support them to develop the emotional quotient skills they need to thrive in change.
  • Learn their goals, dreams and aspiration. Guide them in charting a career development plan that taps into their vocational aspirations, taking into account who they are, how they are wired, and what they feel they are called to do in life. Then, work with him or her on mapping out the step-by-step actions they need in order to start gaining traction with their goals.

Millennials and Gen Z’s are fully embracing the advantages of technology. However, they still want to be treated as an individual – not a robot or a trend. Your input in developing their untapped potential will build trust, deepen the relationship, and spark engagement.

Redefine your role as a Leader

If 64 percent of young people are turning away from church involvement, how will they be discipled, coached, and mentored from a Christian perspective on critical issues that are relevant to their everyday life? Do you see the immense opportunity you have to build a deep, trusting relationship with your emerging leaders at work?

As Proverbs 11:14 suggests, they will benefit from your counsel as they find safety in developing their untapped potential and passion. They will be protected from falling for doom and gloom predictions as they discover their God-breathed vocation in the midst of the automation revolution.

Digitization, robotics, and AI are here to stay and will continue to challenge your leadership paradigms. Despite all the shifting priorities, technological advances, and changing workplace dynamics, we are invited to seek innovative, relevant strategies to build wise, character-based leaders. Continue to invest in them and encourage them to flourish, professionally, and spiritually. 

Copyright, 2019, Danita Bye

Danita Bye, M.A. is an executive leadership coach and author of Millennials Matter: Proven Strategies for Building Your Next-Gen. She’s served as Forbes Coaches Council contributor, Harvard Business School MBA sales coach, Board of Trustees for several Christian universities, and as a TEDx speaker on Millennial leadership. She will be releasing a series of Christian Leaders Guides in 2020. Connect at

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