Growing up in a multi-generational home in Southern India, I watched my parents and grandparents plan and act with generational continuity in mind. They worked and saved for future generations. They intentionally imparted family values into the next generation. They planned actively for subsequent generations to step into leadership roles. In fact, I had no idea there was any other way to think and act, but generationally. I now know that this is not how most of the world operates.
As leaders, we know the importance of long-term, strategic planning. But with pressure to produce immediate results, it is easy to stay within the comfort of a three-year plan and annual Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
Only leaders of great courage and vision will intentionally consider the next 100 years and beyond.
Here are 5 principles that will help you become an effective generational leader.
1. Ask yourself, “How many generations will be able to build on my current vision and foundation?”
My family’s home in Southern India was built by my Grandfather and has been used by four generations. The original home where Grandfather grew up has been in our extended family since the early 1600s. In both homes, each generation has added and changed things, but it has always been done on the original foundation.
Building for the future requires a focus on the big-picture needs and principles rather than on the detailed process. The “how” will change from one generation to the next, but a generational leader will build a foundation on a clear, strong “why,” with values that can be sustained.
2. Make intentional decisions, knowing that you may not reap the benefits from them!
As Warren Buffet summarized, “’Someone’ is sitting in the shade today because ‘someone’ planted a tree a long time ago.” Generational leaders choose to act in the present for a win they may never even see. We must think and act beyond the selfie world and immediate gains and force ourselves to think about the gains and benefits for multiple generations from now.
3. Invest proactively into the next generation.
My son and I have always arm wrestled, usually in competitive fun! It was a great opportunity to share fun times as well as to train him in fairness, strength and opportunity. I realized a few years ago, as the fun became more serious, that my days of winning were numbered. This is the reality of life: someone stronger and smarter will emerge sooner or later. Understanding our own mortality and limits, generational leaders will proactively invest vision and values into others and, subsequently, their impact will continue long after they are gone.
4. Lead the next generation more like a parent than a boss.
To be an effective generational leader, you need to think like a father or mother.
The focus of a good parent is not on where the child is right now, but on who you believe they could become: seeing potential before they see it themselves, calling it out, encouraging, nurturing and giving opportunities for them to experiment, fail and thrive. In the same way, an effective generational leader will lead in the present, thinking about the future.
5. Be intentional about your legacy.
Like it or not, you won’t be here forever. Once you are gone, how will future generations remember you?
Your legacy begins with your leadership right now. Success will result from what you do yourself, but your legacy will be the compounded success of those you influence and invest in. As my friend, the late Bob Buford, repeatedly said, “My fruit is on other trees.” Like Bob, true generational leaders work for fruit that grows on other trees, in other orchards, that may not even be planted yet.t.
Generational leadership isn’t a popular discussion within leadership circles.
It requires selfless courage to know our own mortality, to invest into others, to dream beyond the current reality and to work for a harvest we may never see.
But, if you are willing to be selfless and courageous, as a generational leader, you may leave a legacy that goes beyond your wildest dreams or imagination!
Questions for Reflection:
- What changes are required in your organization or leadership to become truly generational?
- List the names of those in the next two generations you are intentionally investing into?
- What is stopping you from giving at least 10% of your time investing in the next generation?
- If nothing changes, what will be your legacy 100 years from now?