Millennials and Leadership

Millennials are making a tremendous impact on corporate America. At the close of 2018, Millennials comprised 35% of American workers, which outnumbered all other generations in the labor force. By 2020, Millennials will occupy over 50% of the entire workforce. Also, the Millennial Leadership Survey conducted in 2015 discovered that 91% of Millennials desired to be leaders with nearly half of Millennials defining leadership as empowering others to succeed.

As a leadership coach and trainer, it thrills my heart to witness so many young adults aspiring to become empowering leaders for the glory of God and the sake of others. We are in desperate need of great leaders, especially great Kingdom leaders. Kingdom leaders are not just people who lead in the church, but rather men and women from every sphere of life who will impact their world with the Kingdom of God through serving and influencing others in the way of Jesus.

Yet, being a leader is extremely challenging.

The Story of Samson

As a child I remember hearing the story of Samson. Of course, I was taught the G-rated version, and the story was mostly limited to Samson’s great feats of strength and his long, uncut hair! You can read the complete story of Samson in the Old Testament book of Judges in chapters 13:1-16:31.

The role of judges in ancient Israel is not synonymous with our contemporary view of judges in our judicial system. Instead, during the Old Testament, the title of “judge” referred to men and women, such as Samson, Deborah, and Gideon, whom God raised up to lead and deliver his people from their oppressors.

By all accounts, Samson should have been one of Israel’s greatest leaders; yet, when all was said and done, he turned out to be one its worst leaders. In the beginning, Samson had everything going for him:

  • He was a special child, foretold by the angel of the Lord to his parents (Judges 13:3)
  • He had a divine destiny and purpose (Judges 13:5)
  • Even as a child, Samson was blessed by God and the Spirit was on him (13:24-25).
  • Samson performed many miraculous feats of strength.

However, after 20 years of judging Israel, Samson’s life ended poorly:

  • He was weak and blind
  • He was enslaved to very people he was destined to deliver Israel from – the Philistines
  • The Spirit of God departed from him (which Samson failed to even realize at first).

Samson did not finish well.

The Story of Paul

In the New Testament, we read the story of another leader in the Kingdom of God named Paul. Paul, who was first called Saul, actually began rather poorly:

  • He gave his approval of the killing of Stephen, the first martyred disciple of Jesus (Acts 7:58; 8:1; 22:20).
  • He sought to violently destroy the church (Acts 8:3) by imprisoning followers of Jesus and killing others (Acts 22:4; 26:10,11).

However, after Paul encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus, Paul became a prominent leader for Jesus. In fact, towards the end of his life, Paul wrote to his spiritual son Timothy and said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).

Paul finished well.

Few Leaders Finish Well

Dr. J. Robert Clinton was a professor of leadership at Fuller Theological Seminary. From 1981 to the present, Dr. Clinton has conducted extensive research on the lifelong development of Christian leaders. In 1989, Clinton wrote an article entitled, “Listen Up Leaders! Forewarned is Forearmed!”

In that article Clinton makes four crucial observations about leadership:

  • Spiritual leadership is important and makes a difference.
  • Leadership is demanding and difficult.
  • God’s empowering presence is the key to successful leadership.
  • Few leaders finish well

RELATED: 12 Unexpected Books to Help You Become a Better Leader

The Problem

In an exhaustive search of the Bible, Dr. Clinton identified approximately 800 leaders. The majority of leaders mentioned in the Scriptures are by name only.  Sufficient information was available on about 50 Biblical leaders to accurately evaluate how they finished.

The results are shocking: Clinton concluded that only 30% of leaders in the Bible finished well, which means that 70% fell short someway of God’s plan for their lives.

Dr. Clinton also studied over 1200 historical and contemporary leaders and concluded, “What is true of Biblical leaders is equally true of historical and contemporary leaders.” Meaning approximately only 30% of all leaders finished well.

This fact should greatly alarm us and cause us to do some deep reflecting. More leaders finish poorly like Samson than finish well like Paul.

The Solution

The good news is that God develops a leader over their lifetime by teaching and shaping them to reach their full potential as a Kingdom leader. At the same time, each of us is responsible for continuing to develop ourselves by expanding our leadership capacities to fulfill God’s purposes for our lives.

Leadership can be thwarted or enhanced due to the emerging leader’s response to God’s shaping. Therefore, over the next three posts, I will expand on Dr. Clinton’s research and examine:

  • Seven characteristics of Kingdom leaders who finish well,
  • Seven barriers that prevent us from completing our race, and
  • Six spiritual practices that empower us to keep the faith and finish well.

My passion is not only to help guide men and women to be authentic, transformational leaders, but also leaders who finish well and can at the end of their lives echo the words of Paul, “This is the only race worth running. I’ve run hard right to the finish, believed all the way. All that’s left now is the shouting—God’s applause!” (The Message Bible, 2 Timothy 4:7–8).

Craig Conaway is a trainer, coach, spiritual director, and writer. His passion is to help equip people to be courageous followers of Jesus who impact their spheres of influence for the glory of God. Craig has over 20 years of pastoral experience including directing an in-depth discipleship training school. He recently completed his book, Identity: Being Who God Says You AreCraig resides in Norman, OK with his wife and three kids, and is pursuing his Master’s of Leadership.