Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Youth of Today

Last weekend I had the opportunity to serve as faculty and presenter at Phi Delta Theta's Kleberg Emerging Leaders Institute (KELI) in Oxford, Ohio. This event brings 500 student leaders from across America and Canada to our fraternity headquarters. Our goal: to exemplify the benefit of Greek Life for the leaders of tomorrow.

I have said a hundred times in this blog that the stereotypes of Generation Y are unfair. My experience in Oxford validated this presumption. The issue with developing young people in the workplace is not the young people but the people who have been tasked with leading them. Fraternities are no longer social clubs but organizations focused on developing potential. Our staff took on the challenge of motivating the leaders of tomorrow and they soaked it up!

3 distinct goals were conveyed by the young men selected to attend this event:
  • Building and Expanding a Network of Opportunity
  • Validating a Foundation for Positive Decision Making
  • Assisting and Protecting the Community
250,000 Friends
Making connections has never been easier. The young people who attended the KELI were bumping i-phones in an effort to share ideas. Where once a few quality contacts would emerge from a student conference, now thousands of contacts are made in one day. Instead of having one-off conversations in silos, young people are now opening an enterprise of thought leadership, aimed at expanding their organizations and keeping their membership safe.

I saw not a single person I would characterize as entitled. I interacted with hundreds of young people who are empowered and motivated to help one another.

The Most Important Aspect of Leadership
The world's best leaders possess a common characteristic: the ability to make hard decisions. The progress of any organization is predicated upon the character of its culture. Fraternity leaders are no longer willing to allow a bad apple to spoil the bunch. Young people are learning to make hard decisions that cast aside he/she who attempts to destroy an organization with irresponsible behavior. The beer guzzling show off is now met with rolled eyes instead of cheers....the lack of validation of the "show off culture" will ultimately save lives.

In professional organizations we face a similar challenge: how do we silence the squeaky wheel? If we learn that intolerance of negligence is an expectation, the bad apples spoil quickly. If we are no longer willing to empower distractions, progress is an automated process.

The Fund-Raising Epidemic
What is going on here...? College kids would rather bring toys to under-privileged children than to run naked through campus? Young people possess the passion to help to the extent that they would raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to support a cause? Now, the Greek letters worn across the chest of young people represent hope (not over-privileged dysfunction).

In my time as a fraternity man, I learned a lot of hard lessons at the expense of my misdirected life goals. I intended to use my experience to express to young people "what not to do". I didn't need to. The gentlemen who attended the Kleberg Emerging Leaders Institute all wanted to be part of something bigger than themselves. What they already knew was that "animal house culture" can only lead to things that will cost them dearly. I am impressed that my stories of misfortune were met with empathy - as if the young people were saying, "man, you guys were stupid back then".

The beauty in offering to help others is the benefit you receive from the practice. Indeed, I gained more from my students than I was able to teach them.

I have never been more reassured that the future of our country is in good hands!

The senior members of the professional world who dismiss the fast paced exuberance of the young people might want to seek to understand the purpose behind the energy. A train is coming and it is heading in the right direction. Hop on or you'll be sitting by yourself wondering why no one is listening to your advice.

"We are young so let's set the world on fire" - Nate Ruess

Don't Forget to Remember!


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