A new perspective on the millennial myth

There is a glut of material floating around the interwebs about the so-called millennial generation and how the entire generation is little more than an¬†impedance¬†to the progress of the human race. The fact that the entire generation — which includes people under 36 years of age — lives completely inside of a world created and directed by individuals from the previous generation notwithstanding, millennials have recently been blamed for everything from the death of the American Church to the imminent collapse of capitalism.

We are lazy. We are self-absorbed. We are inexperienced. We are soft.

The stereotype is unflattering. Millennials are an entire generation that grew up with technology and wealth that previous generations could have only dreamed of, and it made them soft, selfish, and somehow incomplete. They did not have to pay their dues in order to gain a middle-class life — not the way that their¬†forebears did.

Life used to be harder. They’ve got it so easy. They didn’t have to sacrifice. They didn’t have to give up anything.

I hope the reader will by now have an inkling¬†of my intention with this post (as if the title did not already give away my intentions). The further we go down the road of millennial-bashing, does it not become obvious that all arguments devolve into the mere “us-versus-them” language that we see in every book, every superhero movie, every plot of every story known to man?¬†I’ll cut to the chase:¬†you need a villain, and so you create one based on any kind of stereotype or characteristic you can muster, in order to cast yourself as the hero. ¬†

When we compare movies to real life, what is the number one thing we usually learn?

Movies can be finished in two hours because they are simple. There is usually good versus bad, they face off, and one side wins.¬†Real life, however, does not have a screenwriter. And while there are often many losers in the world’s big conflicts, there are rarely any true winners.

The millennial/boomer dichotomy is not real.

The weakness inherent in most of the millennial-bashing “literature” can be brought out with a single question: Who are the parents of the so-called millennials?¬†

(It’s easy to figure out — just subtract about 25 years from the so-called Millennial range of 1980-1995, and you get 1955-1970. Younger Baby boomers and older Gen-Xers.)

One could easily say that we should have never expected anything from the children of pot-smoking, free-loving, anti-authoritarian hippies who never paid back their student loans and reaped huge (and undeserved) gains from the post-war growth of Western economies.

Concert goers at Woodstock, 1969

But that perspective doesn’t get expounded because most of the people doing all the writing about so-called millennials are not themselves millennials.¬†Simon Sinek — not a millennial. Joel Stein (the man who wrote this article) — not a millennial. Up to now, mostly because many millennials are still just entering the workforce — the vast majority of voices contributing to the noise surrounding the millennial myths on the internet are not themselves millennials.

But there’s a better reason as well:¬†Baby boomers (and some old Gen-Xers) are our parents. We know that our parents worked hard, whether in a factory or in an office. We also know, thanks to the hours of documentaries we watched on their cable, that some of them made some bad decisions. But to say that our parents by-and-large are “lazy”? “Pot smokers”? “Hippies”? That’s not something that anyone is really able to say. The real world, it turns out, is a lot more complex than that.

So, IMHO, when we participate in the Millennial/Gen-X/Boomer rivalry, we are¬†not¬†commenting on modern culture. We’re advancing a myth.¬†

Tell me about how the world is messed up because every millennial got a participation trophy, has a smartphone, and is lazy. I can just as easily say that their trophies and smartphones were given them by Baby boomers, who themselves all have smartphones, and are in massive debt.

Basically, the Millennial stereotype — just like the Baby boomer and the Gen-Xer — is a caricature. It may have some element of reality in it, but it is mostly an inaccurate, insulting representation of an enormous group of people. Just ask any actual Baby boomer.

When we attribute real problems to simplified caricatures, three things happen.

First, we harm our ability to build meaningful relationships with the people we have caricatured. Who wants to be friends with someone who assumes they are lazy, based on merely their birthdate?

Second, we rob ourselves of a more objective perspective on the world.¬†The truth is, for every story about the laziness and self-interested nature of Millennials, one can easily produce a matching story to say the opposite. Laziness? Every generation has always considered the next one lazy. Maybe they are lazy, but in comparison to what? See — it’s subjective, not objective. They ¬†probably aren’t actually any more lazy than their parents were at the same age. Once we come to realize that, it enables us to relate to each other without pretense. But we never come to that place if we insist on keeping up the stereotypes.

Third, social structures begin to crumble.¬†The fact that we all — Boomers, Gen-Xers,¬†and¬†Millennials¬†— choose to think in terms of those stereotypes is a reason that we don’t want to be in groups together. It’s one of the reasons that, once people get to be adults, they leave things that their parents made them participate in. They realize that as long as they stay around, it’ll be hard for the group to view them as adults. It’s something that they never saw their parents have to deal with, and something they would rather not deal with, either.

Conclusion: So what then?

First, abstain, as hard as it might be, from the building of the myth. No generation is really better than another — just different. Generalizing is not wrong, but this post isn’t about mere generalizing — it’s about pitting gross generalizations against each other, to try and justify some form of superiority in comparison to others.

Seek knowledge.¬†The more we read, listen, and talk to others, the more we will understand just how complex our world is, and how much it is different from a movie. We will become more comfortable with the complexity around us, and stop trying to blame the world’s problems on any one group of people.

Be friendly.¬†The more friends we have, the more we will understand about different perspectives. Go out, find someone from a different generation, and be friendly to them — you will not regret it.

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Get yourself on TV. I did.

You really must read this message I got through our Facebook page recently.

Dear sir,

I am a fourth year student at the college of human sciences, with my concentration in communications sciences. I am currently working in my internship with City Television station, and we are shooting one episode in which my assignment is the theme of the day. My desire is to do a piece about how foreigners live in Mostar, and I thought that perhaps someone from your organization would be a relevant spokesperson. If you are available tomorrow or Friday to speak with us, I would be much obliged.

Sincerely…

Unfortunately, I was out of town when the message came, so I sent my regrets and said that if I could help when I returned, I would. She contacted me again, through Facebook, and said that we could just do the piece when I returned. Then she called me. Then she sent more messages on Facebook. I should do this thing, I thought, out of respect for her persistence, if for no other reason.

Soon another message came:

Sir,

My colleagues said that we can arrange the shoot for tomorrow. I have seen several times that you ride your bike to your office. I believe that would be an interesting caveat to the piece. Would it be a problem to film you doing that, for example coming to your office or somewhere in town?

Sincerely…

Are these people watching me?

* * *

I agreed, and we met in our town’s square and did the piece. It went on without a hitch. It was a very interesting chance to connect with¬†someone and voice an opinion or two. I had to speak their language, but I think I got my point across.

Sometimes, opportunities fall into your lap.

Honestly, I did nothing to make this whole thing happen. I didn’t go searching for the publicity, and yet an intern from City Television — a station I have never watched — came calling. There is something to be said here for the fact that, especially if you are watching for it, life occasionally presents you with opportunities that you would never search for.

Being in the right place at the right time is a big part of life.

But getting the opportunities is only half of the story — you have to be in a¬†position to use them. And¬†in our line of work,¬†that¬†is the story that matters: how you use the opportunities you have been given.

Reputation. Values. Character. Those are the keys that unlock this puzzle.

Even when you have the keys, the puzzle is still a puzzle. You’ve got to be in the right place to hear your calling. But one thing is for sure — you can’t get to that place if you have a bad reputation among the people you are trying to reach. And you won’t get that good reputation unless you have strong values. And you won’t arrive at decent values without team members who possess strong¬†character.

What are we doing to get to that place? How can we press onward toward the reputation, values, and character that God wants for us?

Answering these questions will bring us closer to the place where we can be ready to have an impact and make lasting change.

It doesn’t matter whom you vote for: Earthly leaders and the heavenly leader

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. – John 10:11

  

Scripture refers to people as sheep over 400 times. Why?

Sheep are hopelessly dumb; there is no other way to describe them. Unlike dogs or cats, they will wander and lose their way. Even when they are found, they may not follow their shepherd unless they are scared into doing so by a dog. At times, the shepherd must catch them, tie them up, and carry them back to their pasture. They will wander without direction, oblivious of their circumstances, until they starve and die, or are killed by a predator. 

And yet this is one of scripture’s favorite word pictures for people. There are many implications. People are hopeless without a shepherd. People are oblivious of their surroundings. People are unaware of how they hurt themselves. 

But there is one more implication that is especially valuable in this time: there is but one Good Shepherd. All others will disappoint. No other shepherd has the heart of Jesus, who lays down his life for the edification of stupid, wayward animals. 

Inject that insight into the circumstances of today. The American people will soon choose a new President. This is the choosing of a new earthly shepherd, a new earthly leader. To the top of the heap have risen characters whose pasts are checkered, to put it kindly. 

No one in this field has clearly demonstrated a desire to lead the American people that does not also include an obvious desire for their own profit and gain.  Maybe this is something we all instinctively know, but it is worth noting.

There is no perfect candidate, because there never will be one. The only leader who ever led from a truly selfless motivation already came, 2,000 years ago. And if we think that we can find a similar leader today, then we are sadly mistaken. 

If this is true, then, in fulfilling our civic duty we would all do good to recognize that all leaders are broken in some way. While we must still debate the differences between the candidates and discern the best choice for ourselves, it is helpful to be mindful that we are ultimately still comparing one broken person to another. None is perfect, and there is not one choice that is more “spiritual” than another. We are free to choose. 

However, while we are free to chose, we are not to judge the spirituality of another voter based on their choice for an elected office. It doesn’t make sense to assume that a person’s opinion of one broken candidate is indicative of their standing with God. All are broken, and all are capable of good things only through the grace that God gives. 

Lastly, it is good to step back from this whole process and recognize our own brokenness. We are all sheep, in need of a Good Shepherd. 

A sheep’s problem isn’t that it acts sometimes like a sheep, overeating in its own pasture and wandering off too far — its problem is that it is a sheep, and from that it will never escape without the guidance of a shepherd. And unless we recognize that we are the same, we deceive ourselves. 

You Must Define Your Culture Because It Will Define You

 
 Today I am once again a vagabond, traveling alone by bus to Sarajevo to get my car out of the shop where I left it several days ago. As I ride alone through the Bosnian countryside — alone with 40 other people I’ve never met — I am surrounded by and constantly reminded of something for which most people of my background have very little vocabulary: culture

Culture can be defined as a set of shared traditions, customs, and obligations that gives a group purpose and meaning. There is a song that is collectively sung by the people of this land, and it echoes from every red tile rooftop, every kafana, and every bombed out building. It unifies them, and it tells every member of this country where they are going and from whence they came. It is construed so that no one from here will ever forget the past, guaranteeing that the future will be reminiscent of what they already know. 

Culture is all around you. 
Perhaps you made the connection that I could have just been describing a family, a high school graduating class, or a group of coworkers. Though they don’t have an entire country at their disposal, every group of people has a culture. Sometimes the group culture is so weak that it is inconsequential to its members — each member may also be a member of several other, stronger groups that exercise more influence over them. But every kind of group you can name can be thought of in the framework of culture. 

Every family has a family culture — some of us run from it, some of us run to it. Family culture is especially influential; it governs when the members go to bed at night and when they get up in the morning. It sets our expectations for marriage and family life when we become adults. Just like all these people here in Bosnia, most of us will never forget. 

Every work group has a culture. It comes with an attitude toward authority, and a system of rewards for compliance. It clashes often with that family culture we go home to each night, and culture wars ensue. Anyone with a full-time job can imagine the problems that arise when a spouse fails to appreciate the work culture that demands so much from their husband or wife. Or, when the family culture is made subservient to the culture of work. 

I work with a team here in Mostar, and we are just beginning our existence together. We all moved here in February, and before then, there was no one in the city from our organization. I can’t remember when it occurred to me, but at some point I had the distinct realization that the most important thing about leading a group of coworkers is establishing a culture that works for the members of the group. Most of us read articles about companies that have a great culture on the job; few of us get to live it out at work. 

I had the opportunity to participate in leading my group of coworkers through an entire year, a few years ago. It is not an experience I would like to repeat. I was less enlightened then, and many of the experiences of that year gave me first-hand knowledge of how not to establish a good working culture. And I’ll never be allowed to forget that year. 

I was unaware of what I was doing, and though action and inaction, I helped establish a working culture. As many cultures are, it was full of unwritten rules and ambiguous expectations. There were unjust assumptions, unfixable problems, and scapegoats. There were no festivals, for sure — there was little to celebrate. Celebration and friendships felt contrived and filled with unvoiced frustration. 

It wasn’t all terrible. But it wasn’t at all what we wanted. In our failure to define a productive culture, one was defined for us, and we were all defined by it, unable to escape it, struggling to forget it. Because I failed to appreciate my incredibly influential role in that group, I was bound to things I didn’t realize existed, and our growth and influence was stunted. It wasn’t all bad — some parts were even good — but it wasn’t what it could have been. 

And I will not forget — I will not be defined in that way, never again. Not ever, never

So as we sat together the other day and began to talk about our hopes and dreams for the future, I brought up the idea of culture and explained it the best I knew how. I knew that this was no time for empty promises or pledges. I had been down that road before. That was a journey I would never forget and hoped to not repeat. 

Don’t make promises. 

Promises and covenants about working relationships rarely work in creating a life-giving culture because they do not describe anything that currently exists and therefore offer the parties involved nothing to defend. Promises and covenants usually say something like this:

I promise to always respect the boundaries of my coworkers, to strive to finish my assignments on time, to treat others in the way I would like to be treated, et cetera…

The problem isn’t that we are saying bad things, but that we are answering the wrong questions. Such promises fail to take into account the habits and customs and assumptions that already exist, and there is inequal value placed on them by the participants. A father of three might see his missed deadline as inconsequential, while a young single, driven staff member is up in arms. Assumptions are made. Conclusions are drawn. People are judged. 

It is better at the start to define those things that are already true and accepted by all the team members. Defining that which is true gives participants something to defend and appreciate. Documents that cannot be defended should not be made — they will only make people upset, and they will not define a culture that makes people want to come to work every day. They will be forgotten, and a culture will be defined by default. 

It may seem that I am overreacting to my past experience, but I believe this type of nonconformity is something I can’t emphasize enough. Do not check off the boxes in leading a group — any group. Don’t do it as a father, a project manager, a boss, or a team leader. Do not create documents that you don’t need to create, just because someone else tells you that they are good things to have. Do not say things you don’t need to say. 

As you lead, do the things you have to do. Do the things you must do. State that which is true, and then defend the truth with every ounce of energy you have in you. 

As a father, a leader, a boss, or whatever position you find yourself in, do not say, “I will always.” You won’t. And don’t say, “I will never,” because you will. Instead, say those things which you know that you do. Right now. 

And if those things you do now need to be changed somehow, then you must make the decision to change them. But don’t tell people you will change things that you have not decided you are ready to change. Though you’ve said good things, you are sowing a culture of ambiguity, stagnation, and unmet expectations. I will not judge you for it — we have all been told we need to say good things. But it is ultimately better to resist, than to succumb and give birth to disappointment and ill will that we cannot control. 

However, if there are any good things that you do now — and I know that there are — then you must defend those things with every ounce of vigilance in your soul. Go to war for these things and don’t let them be pried from your grasp. Live for these things — live and die for them. Let them define you. Let them be the words of the song that echoes from every corner of your life. 

And let those things be the things that define a culture that you will never want to forget. 

A Video That Will Change Your Life.

Watch this video on the ESPN website here.

To understand me, you’ve got to know something about basketball.

When I was a kid, I loved basketball. I would play all day, and on the weekends I would watch it on TV. But I remember, about halfway through my teenage years, TBS, one of our Atlanta TV stations, began broadcasting NBA basketball on Wednesday nights. And that is when I became acquainted with Ernie Johnson, Jr.

Ernie was the host of the weekly broadcast — called “Inside the NBA” — and Ernie still is the host, nearly 20 years later. On the rare occasions in recent years when I’ve been in the U.S.¬†during the NBA season, I’ve watched it a few times. I am not making this up: I think there are few things that can immediately take me back in time to my teenage years like watching that show.

Ernie Johnson, Jr.

I remember reading about Ernie coming down with cancer and announcing it publicly on the show. By that time, I was out of college and was already in the process of moving to Sarajevo, but I remember it. I didn’t know him — to me, he was just¬†someone I had seen on TV — but I felt sad for him as I knew he was in a difficult situation. It made me appreciate the show a bit more and look for a chance to catch it if I was in the right place at the right time.

Then, today, I saw the video I embedded above from a post on social media. At first I thought, “Oh, I know who that is.”

And then I saw him, shaving his son’s face. And suddenly this minute-long video became potentially life-changing.

Suddenly the man I used to only know through seeing his face show up on the glass and plastic box in my living room became a fellow Atlanta church member, a fellow struggler, trying to navigate through the waters of the life that God gave him. Suddenly there was a lot more to him than basketball.

More to the story

Ernie Johnson lives in the Atlanta area, and has been working in broadcasting since 1981. His father, Ernie Johnson, Sr., was a major league pitcher and famous play-by-play announcer for the Atlanta Braves. That’s how most people know of him. But what many¬†people who hear his voice don’t know is that the man and his wife have adopted 4 children during their 30-year marriage, in addition to having 2 biological children.

The son in the video is Michael, who is ethnically Romanian. He suffers from muscular dystrophy, and today breathes through a ventilator. His family cares for him completely; he is unable to do anything for himself.

From an interview for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

‚ÄúHe‚Äôs on a ventilator with a ‚Äėtrake‚Äô (tracheostomy tube),‚ÄĚ Johnson says. ‚ÄúWe‚Äôve all become very good nurses, everybody in the family. We know how to suction his lungs. He has overnight nursing, but during the day it‚Äôs me or my wife or my oldest daughter if she‚Äôs got a day off.‚ÄĚ

Anyway, to make a really, really long story short, the video and my subsequent research got me to thinking.

Ernie and his wife take care of Michael, day after day. They take him to the car show down at the World Congress Center. And they love him — not just in words, but in deed after deed after deed.

And then you hear Charles Barkley say, “I don’t have that… courage.”

You hear Shaq say, “Man, if it weren’t for Ernie, our show would be torrrrrible.”

And you hear all these people talk about what a great person he is.

Now, I know that nobody is perfect. Everyone lets a cuss word slip (even my 6-year-old!) every once in a while. Everyone does things they wish they hadn’t done. And I’m sure that is true for Ernie.

But when you see the story of him taking care of his son, the story of his battle with cancer, the stories of how much people admire him, the stories of his generosity… you begin to realize that you are observing something really significant. And you begin¬†to wish or hope that you could¬†be so¬†generous, admirable, or kind.

You Wanna Adopt?

 

IMG_3772

I don’t care about being admirable, really. It’s not that important to have people say a whole bunch of nice things about me. But I think the thing that¬†is¬†important is something called¬†will.¬†

I don’t need to have all of Ernie Johnson’s experiences. I don’t need to have cancer, and I don’t really need to adopt a boy with muscular dystrophy. But what I need is to be willing¬†to do so. If I’m not willing, then my life is going to be just all about me.

All about how other people have disrespected me.

How other people have done me wrong.

How I’ve had life harder than so many other people.

But if my will can be altered just a little, so that I am willing to give a little bit more of myself if necessary, then I think that might be the key.  I want to be willing.

Tonight, as I held my 2-week-old daughter, I looked at my wife and said, “do you think we could ever adopt?”¬†

That thought had never seriously crossed my mind before tonight. And, to be sure, it wasn’t just because of a 2-minute video that someone posted on Facebook, that I asked my wife something so serious. But tonight something was different about it. Tonight I wanted to do it — not because I wanted to be like Ernie Johnson, but because I wanted to be willing to give more of myself than I ever thought I could in a situation that I never thought I would experience. Deep down I knew somehow that giving myself away was the key to becoming who I was created to be.

I want to be willing. Do you?

 

We Do Not Have To Be Right

IMG_3695
My 3-year-old daughter, ready for battle.

In order to understand my world you need to meet my kids.

I have a son, aged 6 years, and a daughter, aged 3. About once a day, I hear something from my son that I usually never believe. Sometimes he screams it at me, sometimes he says it while crying, and sometimes he is just slightly upset.

It usually goes something like, “Daddy, Hannah is hurting me!”

There are many other versions. “Dad, Hannah is not being fair.” “Dad, you need to tell Hannah to give me that toy.”

Sometimes, there is …violence. It’s usually me saying, “Hannah, did you hit Tyler? Why?” And her reply is usually, “Tyler took my toy.”

In this situation, I almost always take issue with my son, as I remember my father did with me when I was young. I think the reason why is probably obvious to most adults.

Here it is: my son is 6. My daughter is 3. That’s it. That’s the reason.

My son, at 6 years old, highly intelligent for his age, of slightly above average size for his age, is perfectly capable of resolving most cases of sibling rivalry in our home. His sister, at 3 years old, is simply not.

The answer, as I still tell him almost every day, is usually very simple.¬†Just walk away. Give her the toy. Be nice. You are stronger than her. She doesn’t understand yet. You do.

Is it really important that I step in and mediate the discussion between my 6-year-old and my 3-year-old and decide who should really play with the toy, or who should eat the banana, or who should be able to do whatever they wanted to do before someone started crying?¬†No. The winner of conflict is not important. I don’t want my son to think that it is; I want him to learn that his sister’s feelings are infinitely more important than anything they were fighting over.

Now, the truth is that he doesn’t really understand. He won’t really understand the importance of choosing peace over conflict until he is much older.¬†But he understands enough to diffuse most of the situations he faces with his sister right now.

Do we ever really learn?

The lesson that my son is trying to learn is one that never really goes away. There are times throughout life, even as adults, when we have the opportunity to choose peace over conflict.

Someone cuts us off in traffic. Someone cuts in front of us at the grocery store. A coworker is inconsiderate of our needs or desires. We get left out of a night out with friends. We get made fun of at the water cooler at work.

I could go on, but I think the picture is clear: part of being an adult is being able to choose peace over conflict. There are a multitude of situations where this kind of decision is necessary.

But there is something even better, and more difficult, that we must learn as adults.

It’s not just about peace.

At this point, I believe choosing¬†to simply end the conflict before it escalates is about all that my 6-year-old son can grasp on his own. But¬†the peace is not a¬†real¬†peace — it is simply an end to violence. There is no understanding, no clear declaration, “Now, in this situation, daughter, you were wrong. Son, you were correct…” The parties involved don’t understand each other more clearly. They don’t resolve to work together in the future. They just know that a third party, their father, is forcing them to end their conflict.

One day — probably as an adult — my son will learn not just the value of mere peace, but also the value of true reconciliation.

That which sets us apart

…therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.¬†Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:7-8)

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:12-15)

As a Christian, I would not say that we are better than others. We are not. The thing we ought to know, because of our faith, is that we aren’t better. The thing we ought to know is that we are in fact worse than we could have imagined.

And in the midst of our fallen, broken human nature, we have one truth that ought to hold us afloat in the midst of conflict: we are forgiven. Because we have been forgiven much, we are free to forgive others.

But that’s only one side of it, because the power to forgive implies that we are the ones who have been offended. We are not only free to forgive — we are also free to admit the truth when we are wrong¬†and seek the forgiveness of others.

That’s a truly adult thing to do, and one that we usually only truly appreciate far, far into our adulthood. This is what sets us apart: not the ability to do right, but the ability to seek reconciliation¬†when we haven’t.

This is our war.

Oh, if this was just about personal relationships, who spilt the milk and who kissed who, it would still be so simple. But there is so much more to this. What some might say sounds like a happy-go-lucky, touchy-feely gospel is actually the greatest battle we fight as lovers of our Savior, Jesus.

We get to bring reconciliation into this world. We get to fight against the comfort-loving, tit-for-tat status quo of our society with truth that will change people from the inside out. We do not have to be right — we get to be stronger, admit the brokenness of our society, and promote peace, justice for the downtrodden, and true reconciliation.

I believe the time has come¬†when we — when I — can no longer settle for comfort, for the status quo. There is something greater. There is something greater in all my relationships, in all my conflicts, and in all the messed up brokenness that I am met with every day, in my life and in the lives of others. It is the all-encompassing, profound, deep, counter-cultural peace of Jesus.

4 Reasons why Leadership is the Most Important thing in the World

 

Ferenc Pusk√°s, a great leader and the greatest soccer player in Hungarian history. His likeness is used now on a local brand of beer.

For the next 8 days in am in Hungary at a training conference with 40 other leaders from my organization. There are representatives from Macedonia, Moldova, Russia, Ukraine, and many other countries across our region. I am well in the minority; one of the others at my table had to translate for me during our workshop times because I was the only native English-speaker and the others, all Albanians, wanted to converse in their own language. This conference is a beautiful glimpse of people from many cultures and backgrounds finding common ground and working together seemlessly.

Great Leadership is Universal.

At my conference this week, about 20 countries are represented, and it’s easy to see how the principles we learn are applicable to everyone, mo matter where they are. It is so common to hear, “in our culture, we don’t do¬†things that way…” But it is refreshing to hear that things like humility and optimism are valid in any setting. It doesn’t matter what language you speak — the language of leadership is understood everywhere.

There is a GREAT need for GREAT leaders.

Most people think that leadership is a way to advance their own careers. But great leaders don’t primarily advance their careers — they advance the careers of the people under their leadership.¬†

Think about that for a moment. How many people out there are actually seriously concerned about the careers of others? Not very many. And that’s why the need is great, but the supply is low. Great leaders are in great need.

Stewardship of resources is difficult.

Every leader, no matter what his industry, is tasked with the same thing: effective stewardship of finite resources. You can bark orders all you want, but at the end of the day you have either more or less of the resources entrusted to you. The way you direct your people will determine how much they will give to their job and to you. And that will eventually determine whether or not you are a successful leader.

Do you make them want to give their best effort at work? Or do you make them like their job less? Ultimately, those who like their job will produce more than those who don’t. If you have a talented team that is not content with their leadership, results will decline.

But most importantly, the members of the poorly led team will use their own time less wisely than those who are properly empowered and inspired by good leadership. This is how bad stewardship begets more bad stewardship — because the actions of the leader are echoed in the team he/she leads, whether the team members realize it or not.

I believe stewardship is difficult not simply because of laziness or poor planning on the part of leaders, but primarily because decisions about how to allocate human resources are very difficult decisions to make, and fairly often we make the wrong decision. That’s not to say that all leaders are poor decision makers — it is simply meant to state that there is great inherent difficulty in making decisions involving other people and their careers.

Great Leadership can make up for a lack of talent.

Talented people know that they are talented. They don’t walk around saying, “look at how talented I am,” but they know that they are good at what they do. They know that they’ve invested time and money to learn their trade, and they take pride in their work. But there’s a catch: talented people will usually only give the best of their talent for what they believe is a worthy cause. A great leader will always qualify as a worthy cause.¬†

So it’s easy to see why talented people will be more apt to give their talent to good leadership. But talent is only one element of a good team member. Another element is self-development. Good team members will develop new talent and skill for the good of their team. But they will only do so for a good team, and a good team can’t be good without decent leadership.

Great leadership is in great need. The amazing thing is that nearly everyone, in some aspect of life, has an opportunity to be a leader. If you have children, you’re a leader. If you’re married, your spouse looks to you for direction. If you’re on a team anywhere, in any capacity, you can lead others. All you have to do is have a greater concern for the needs of others than for your own.

Are you up to the task?