We encounter different influencers through different organizations. Our influencers change as we age. The constant influencers are our parents and community members. What gaps occur with family and community are dependent on the ability to listen, guide, and set a good example – in a mutual way.

Outside influencers can carry a larger presence as we gain independence through college and full-time work. Two questions determine the success of influencers:

  1. Are we willing to lean in and learn? (individual receiving the influencer)
  2. Are we willing to step up to guide, challenge, and set a conscious example? (individual being the influencer)

Who Are Our Early External Influencers?

In our early youth, teachers play an influential role. We remember a few elementary school teachers, usually because they tapped into something inside and brought it out in a way that excited us. Through middle and high school, teachers have the same opportunity. A few inspire or challenge us in a way that ignites an inner drive. From this, we may select a career direction or an interest area to dive into or pursue.

Teachers play an essential role in the development of the next generation of leaders, citizens, and team members. Many recognize the importance of this role. The big exception is how they are paid given the impact they have. Pay should reflect the influence and attract the influencers who stay motivated and relevant. What I mean is, teachers get worn out, and many leave. We need to deliver better alignment of responsibility, talent, impact, and pay.

At a younger age, minds are more open to be influenced. Our spirits are ready as well. The right teachers and community members can make a big difference. As we age, friends play a greater role, and youth may tend to be more influenced by peers than teachers. Having the backbone to associate with friends that make you better is essential. Teachers and community members can help build and reinforce that backbone.

Who Are Our College Influencers?

As we move into college, an unchanged dynamic are friends. Some high school friends may or may not attend the same college. Even if they do, most high school friends tend to fade through time. Diversity of options grows as do our interests. New college friends enter the picture, and our backbone needs to be strong again. Selecting the right friends who challenge us to explore, discover, and be good citizens makes a long-lasting difference.

A guiding force to develop this learning and discerning backbone are professors. Just as teachers in school can positively influence our willingness to learn and step up, certain college professors do as well. We remember the professors who do this. We remember them well beyond our college years, as their impact is long and deep.

College professors play a key influential role in the development of the next generation of leaders. These new leaders will impact the arts, social good, business, politics, and much more. Young minds need this positive influence – especially as they begin to trust their internal voice more, and their minds begin to think with greater clarity on what to do next.

Who Are Our Organizational Influencers?

After college, the next generation enters a workplace in some place. Workplaces can be retail, business-to-business, consumer packaged goods, community, arts, politics, and other diverse settings. Within each workplace, influencers exist. What has happened is too many influencers have stereotyped the incoming new generation. In other words, the older generations have developed a fixed mindset about who these 20-somethings are. A barrier begins to appear, preventing any mutual positive influence from occurring.

Conscious Influence

In this phase, several interesting things are happening. First, the new generation is taking on more and more responsibility. With this responsibility, a need for conscious influence grows. Two sides need to be open in order for the conscious influence to flow.

What is conscious influence? Conscious influence highlights the value of heart and mind in problem solving and strategy development. Conscious influence values the collaborative spirit to get things done. Conscious influence understands the role of revenue, profit, and purpose. Conscious influence is understanding we are humans who want to make a positive difference.

Conscious influence values the collaborative spirit to get things done.



Strengthen Leadership Capabilities

Second, organizational leaders who stereotype 20-somethings create barriers. Twenty-somethings unwilling to listen and learn also create barriers. Leadership cannot afford more barriers

With each new barrier, we create a leadership gap. Too many problems and opportunities exist to widen the leadership gap. We need to strengthen our leadership capabilities, and we can only do this when we mutually share experiences and refresh our mindset.

Conscious Influencers: Eliminate Gaps Between Generations

The chart tries to depict this situation. In our different age groups, our key influencers change. As we age, our need for positive influence grows because our responsibility grows. Each influencer performs in a certain way and, as individuals reach their 20s, influencers seem to sidestep their influencer role. As this happens, a generational gap widens. Worse, a leadership gap expands.

generations - conscious influenceThe point is everyone needs to step up and lean in. Millennials and Generation Z need to be open to listening to the best influencers possible. Older generations need to be open to the next one and the change they represent. Together, we need to challenge each other in a way that makes us better leaders and citizens.

Generations: Pass Forward Conscious Influence

Leaders need to remember the teachers and professors that made a difference in their lives and pass it forward. Good teachers and professors embrace the new generation with open minds and hearts, working with them to learn and grow. Good students also engage with open minds and hearts, finding that spark that sets a positive path forward.

Embrace the Teacher-Professor Mindset

Just as a parental responsibility shifts as a daughter or son ages, so does an influencer’s role. In early years, more teaching than coaching occurs. In high school and college, more challenging and coaching happens, meaning not every detail is spelled out in an assignment to be completed or paper to be researched. Teachers and professors step up in a different way, just as the student does.

For organizational leaders, we need to embrace the teacher-professor mindset in this way: We need to embrace, engage, and activate the next generation. Our future requires us to do so. With stereotypes eliminated and a higher purpose understood, all generations gain strength in their leadership capabilities.

Be a Student, Always

As schools and colleges open their doors again for another season of learning, organizational leaders need to open their minds, ears, and spirit to carry forward the soul of a teacher in their workplace. Likewise, younger generations need to carry forward the soul of a student, always being open to listen, learn, and grow.

A vital point to remember: No matter our generation, we each are a student and a teacher at times. We need to embrace this duality to be a conscious influence.

Also remember that roles will switch as one generation fades and another dominates. We need to strengthen each as we move forward in time. We will close leadership gaps and create stronger bridges of character and forward thinking.

Are you ready to tap your soul of a teacher and student in your workplace?