Whether it was one decade ago or fifty, anyone who vaguely remembers their younger years will probably recall the angst of youthful relationships, the tension of secondary-school deadlines, the need for parental autonomy and an inexplicable desire to stay out fifteen minutes past curfew. Perhaps those clinging memories are why the term youth is still associated with immaturity, unpredictability, and the need for supervision.
However, the youth are changing. Youth leaders offer unique contributions to organizations and corporations, and can do a lot to improve enterprise agility. The next generation’s young adults are self-directed, socially aware, and as creative as they are adaptive; their technical mastery and quick pace of change provide tools for innovative problem solving that more experienced counterparts may lack.
It’s not about one or the other, though; leadership exists in a relationship, and is learned through actively teaching and practicing skills in a meaningful way. Young adults are more than capable of participating in a business environment, especially in an organization that intentionally incorporates young people into the leadership process. Investing in youth leaders is beneficial for all parties – collaboration develops self-esteem and intellectual capabilities for young adults. This is foundational, absolutely. But it also provides the organization with an invested, inventive asset in the form of a young leader. This is transformational. It’s about changing the narrative to encourage integration and interaction – and changing the perception of young adults to recognize all the untapped potential.
MacNeil, Carole A. “Bridging Generations: Applying “Adult” Leadership Theories to Youth Leadership Development.” New Directions for Youth Development 2006. 109 (2006): 27-43.