Five reasons we need more young leaders in NFPs
24 August 2022 at 10:07 am
While young leaders are essential to the future of the sector, many are starting their own organisations. Bianca Stern outlines five reasons to turn this situation around.
There’s no doubt that diverse leadership in the not for profit (NFP) sector, whether it be diversity in race, sexuality, gender, age or ability, is critical if we want to generate tangible change.
Without young people in leadership positions, we are much less likely to achieve meaningful diversity across the sector, but young people are struggling to effect change in longstanding traditional NFPs.
Instead, many are using their generation’s entrepreneurial skills to start their own organisations.
While it is exciting to see Generation Z’s unwavering commitment to addressing social issues around the world, their efforts would be far more effective and more likely to lead to constructive change if they were given a seat at the table. This includes giving young people opportunities to lead political movements, community organisations, and influential organisations across our corporate sector.
Five reasons why we need more young leaders
- Driven: Young people have been severely impacted and challenged by the pandemic, but they have also been motivated to tackle entrenched social problems. Findings from Deloitte show that nearly seven in ten Australian millennials and Gen Zs were inspired by the pandemic to take positive actions to improve their lives, and a majority discovered new issues and were driven to help others. Young people are enthusiastic, not complacent. They’re also not stuck in traditional thinking and have unmatched creativity.
- Adaptability: Young people are eager to see change, as proven by the ‘Teach Us Consent’ campaign led by University student Chanel Contos, and Greta Thunberg’s ability to inspire the world to take more climate action. Research published at the World Economic Forum highlighted young people’s resilience and resourcefulness, with young employees more likely to have developed ‘pandemic resistance’, students more likely to adopt new skills, and budding entrepreneurs inspired to develop new business models. Young people are not afraid to try new things and blow up social norms if it means we live in a better world.
- Vision: It’s their definition of what the world should be that makes young people more inclusive leaders. Young people today are determined to operate in a fair and equal world, and will speak up if they don’t agree with what they see. Millennials have been defined as confident, self-expressive, liberal, upbeat and open to change, with all signs pointing to Gen Z taking these progressive stances up another notch again.
- Current: Compared to their generational predecessors who might have gone to university thirty or forty years ago, younger leaders will also help organisations stay relevant. In many cases, they’ve been exposed to today’s issues and educated on tomorrow’s solutions. They are often more familiar with new methods, technologies and best practices.
- Future readiness: From a more practical standpoint, we need a pipeline of future leaders to build resilient for-purpose organisations that will serve generations to come.
How do we bring more young leaders into NFPs, and how can we keep them there?
The key to bringing in young leaders and keeping them, is to provide genuine leadership opportunities. They’re not interested in tokenistic gestures. WeSpire found that Gen Z is ‘the first generation to prioritise purpose over salary…they expect consistency and authenticity and will call you out, often publicly if they don’t see it.’
This isn’t to say they don’t care about fair compensation. While it can be tough to offer competitive salaries in the NFP space, young people know their worth and will be up-front about it.
Furthermore, with authenticity comes the need for ownership and accountability. To make this work, young leaders need people who will genuinely back them and be rooting for their success. Don’t just invite them to the meeting, they need to be listened to at the table.
Appointing young leaders is not going to come without its challenges. While they may have the skills to succeed, they will need to lean on other people’s experiences to grow. Today’s leaders need to give them room to make mistakes and ensure strong mentors, professional development, and networking opportunities are put in place so they are given the space to learn.
A leader should not be defined by their age or experience, but by their attitude and ability to do the job in a way that works toward the organisation’s mission. Young people have a vested interest in making the world a better place because they are the ones who will ultimately inherit the problems. They are worth taking the risk on and, ultimately, our future is in their hands.