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Leading: The millennial way, by Simon Barrington with Rachel Luetchford

11 October 2019

Eve Poole reflects on the style of leaders born since 1984

THIS book is written as a response to the fact that “millennial” leaders are now stepping into some of the most significant global leadership positions in businesses, the public sector, and charities, and that, because their leadership style and impact is dynamic and diverse, they are challenging all that has gone before.

Based on research with 492 of them, both face to face and online, the book seeks to offer advice to millennials about honing their unique energy to become even better leaders, and to offer advice to non-millennials about harnessing the power of this generation. It is written by a powerful combination of a Generation-Xer (born between 1961 and 1983) and a millennial (born between 1984 and 2000) in conversation with each other.

It is a very useful book, being practically based and full of sage advice. It would be of particular use to those who minister to millennials, or those who have leadership or mentoring responsibility for them. The sample that it draws on is Christian, with a good gender mix, but an owned bias towards the Evangelical and/or Charismatic tradition and a white ethnicity. The larger quantitative survey also drew on millennials working largely in the church and third sectors, only 13 per cent working in the public and private sectors; so a read-across to these sectors cannot be assumed.

I might also urge caution about the general enthusiasm for millennial labelling and literature. There are undeniable differences between those born before 1984 and those born afterwards, because of the rise of the digital native. But haven’t we always struggled to understand our “young people”?

Here is Aristotle, writing about the young in the fourth century BC: “They are high-minded, for they have not yet been humbled by life, nor have they experienced the force of necessity; further, there is high-mindedness in thinking oneself worthy of great things, a feeling which belongs to one who is full of hope. In their actions, they prefer the noble to the useful; their life is guided by their character rather than by calculation . . . and they think they know everything, and confidently affirm it” (Rhetoric, Book II, Chapter 12).

The rise of the millennials also coincides with the gradual demise of our old-fashioned models of leadership, which are finally giving way to healthier styles that are less about deference and obedience than about collaboration and vocation. Perhaps the millennials will be the first generation who will not have to give up so much of their idealism as they progress through their careers.

This would be quite a legacy, and would bless those of us whose working experience has made us as cynical as Aristotle always promised we would be.

Dr Eve Poole is the author of Buying God: Consumerism and theology (SCM Press), and is the Third Church Estates Commissioner.

Leading: The millennial way
Simon Barrington with Rachel Luetchford
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