Bambang Budijanto – General Secretary
Most of us are familiar with the terms, “succession of leadership,” or “transition of leadership,” and probably “regeneration of leadership.” In most cases they are understood as the passing of baton from one generation (usually older) to the next generation (usually younger) of leader(s) or leadership in an organization, company, church and network.
This short paper will challenge this prevailing concept and argue that the Kingdom of God will be greatly benefited if we develop an intergenerational leadership model instead. Intergenerational leadership is where leaders from different generations will sit together on the decision-making table and contribute based on the nature and perspective of their respective generation.
This is different from what many churches and organizations often practice today, where we see the younger leaders operating on low levels waiting for their chance to climb the ladder with the more senior leaders on the top leadership. The Intergenerational leadership is operating at every level of the organization and network structure, but the implementation must begin at the top level of the decision makers.
B. THE ASSUMPTION:
In every stage of life, we think, perceive and act differently, due to our mental (brain), psychological and social states of our lives.
People in their late teens and mid-twenties are characterized by idealism and camaraderie. They have a lot of energy, both mental and physical, to explore new things in life and work. They engage in a lot of daring initiatives and risk taking endeavors. Many great and impactful ministries were started at this age window. Among others, Billy Graham’s first sermon was delivered in 1937, when he was only 18 years old. The great Chinese leader, Wang Ming Dao, came to Christ at the age of 14, and decided that the church “needed a revolution” and that God had entrusted to him the mission of bringing about this spiritual revolution. At the age of 24, he began his pastoral ministry.
In their late twenties to late thirties, most people would build their careers. They move within their existing space and path, and use their full energy to push toward maximum impact, productivity and “success.” Some accomplish through a fierce battle, while others through maturing skills of relationship and negotiations.
Leaders at their forties and probably early fifties, based on their extended learning years and broad exposure in an organization are best at building strategy (choices of path) to achieve outcomes and gain success.
Good leaders in their mid-fifties, sixties and seventies seek legacy and significance rather than success and position. They serve best as sounding board for the executives. They function best as encouragers and as mentors, to produce more great leaders, to remove obstacles, to model organizational culture, to model servant leadership, to create as much space as needed for other younger leaders to operate, to contribute insight and continue to learn new things.
What a rich and great impact would be achieved if the best representation of these different generations in our church, network and organization could sit on the decision-making table, learning and walking together for the common goal. Each generation will contribute their best, through their passion, risk taking, innovation, wisdom, strategic mind, and persistence in pursuing God given goals: One heart, one mind, one focus with diverse and rich contributions from different generations in the decision making processes.
C. THE HINDRANCES IN IMPLEMENTING INTERGENERATIONAL LEADERSHIP
1. We Choose the Easy Path – Unintentionally
The problem with our human nature is, we naturally prefer to work with people who are of the same generation with us. Why? Because we speak the same language, which is much easier to manage. Therefore, in most cases we will find a church or an organization led by a group of leaders or executives who are all around the same age, who are all at their sixties-seventies, or all at around twenties. We tend to hire and work with people who are like us in temperament and speak our language (our generation).
This is a huge tragedy for the church, by having top leadership who are all at the same age (generation), the Kingdom of God has lost a huge contribution that He entrusted to the other generations. If a church or an organization is led by a leadership (executive) team, who are all between the ages of sixties and seventies and if they operate with “executive” mind rather than “mentor” mind, focus mostly on success rather than significance and legacy, then most of their decision making perspectives would be on how to run the show themselves, how to avoid risks, so that they will finish well in the organization. There will not be any breakthrough or innovations. It will be much less inspiration and daring endeavor to follow God. Similarly, if a church or an organization is led by a leadership (executive) team who are all in their twenties, it will have missed a lot of rich contributions, which God has entrusted to the other generations of the thirties, fifties, and sixties.
It is true that to communicate intergenerational is harder and takes intentionality, but it is also true that through intergenerational leadership, the church will be much impactful and fruitful in building and expanding the Kingdom of God on earth.
2. Focus on Tenure in Organizational Culture
Many traditional organizations were built upon the leadership concept of “tenure” or seniority, instead of functions, giftedness and performance. This culture has significantly hindered the formation of an intergenerational leadership.
3. Worldly Leadership Paradigm
When leadership is seen as position instead of function or role, then the focus of the organization and the energies of the leaders are no longer on common impact, but on the “position” of top leadership.
4. Social and Economic Deficits and Pressures
In conventional succession plan, the former leader(s) will retire and the younger leader will assume his place as the top leader. When leadership is seen as a position, prestige and primary source of (level) incomes, in many developing world, in churches and para-church organizations, leaders would tend to hold the leadership position as long as they could, because there are other important factors in play, such as social access (status) and family livelihood.
The Intergenerational Leadership model is not only a good leadership concept, but one model that will promote unity, collaboration, synergy for all generations existing in the church today in ushering toward the full manifestation of the Kingdom of God, through holistic disciple making; one model that will maximize the impact of the richness of God’s gifts he entrusted to each of the generations.
Both the World Evangelical Alliance General Assembly 2019 in Indonesia and the Asia Evangelical Alliance General Assembly 2020 in Malaysia, and especially the AEA Conference on Intergenerational Leadership (May 14-15, 2020) will give greater significance and emphasis on learning how to operationalize this model. Join us in this discovery journey.