Last week, Rosetta Thurman reported from the front-lines of nonprofit leadership about her experiences at Nonprofit 2020: Issues and Answers from the Next Generation, where much of the talk centered around how to transition leadership from the Baby Boomers to Gen X and the Millenials. You can also read more on the conference here from the Chronicle of Philanthropy.
As a Gen X-er myself, I long ago gave up on the idea that Baby Boomers were going to help me make the transition from front-line worker to leader. Nothing against Boomers, but they have their own issues to worry about, and helping me with my professional development has been pretty low on the list. In fact, I've observed that most Boomers are quite happy where they are and have no intention of moving anytime soon.
Turns out I'm not alone in my evaluation of the situation, as Brazen Careerist Penelope Trunk notes here talking about the "gray ceiling," which is rapidly replacing the glass one we've heard so much about.
So what's an X-er or Millenial to Do?
- Assess your leadership skills--Penelope's article includes some links to some great resources from Jo Miller who coaches people on how to move into executive positions. Check out Jo's leadership assessment tool (PDF), which she uses to help people figure out where to start in addressing leadership development.
- Have a career plan--If you want to go forward, you have to have a plan. This article will give you some resources to get started. You might also want to take a look at these three exercises for exploring what you want in a career and this post on exploring your passions.
- Take charge of your own learning--I've written before about my belief that in a knowledge worker world, the only person who should be in charge of learning is YOU. This is a code that I've lived by for the last 10 years and as a result, I have tripled my income, work from home most of the time and get to work on projects where I can really have some impact. To do this, you might start by getting serious about creating a personal learning environment. As Tom Haskins points out, they're great tools for empowerment.
- Start a portfolio, preferably an online version--I wrote a few days ago on why I think everyone needs a portfolio. If you go this route, check out Helen Barrett's instructions for using a variety of Web 2.0 tools to create a portfolio. You can also check out the eportfolio presentation I just put together (it's in draft, but still some helpful info, I think)
- Get better at self-promotion--A lot of people are uncomfortable selling themselves, but if you want to get anywhere, you have to be willing to do a little self-promotion. Penelope has some good tips for getting started.
- Start blogging--My blog has been a great platform for personal learning, connecting to other people and building my network. Having your own blog helps you develop your voice and a point of view that will be very powerful in developing your leadership skills.
- Get disruptive--If you're not able to assume the mantle of leadership in your current organization, think about starting your own. Disruptive innovations are one way in which you can change the rules of the game and start bringing your own leadership voice to the table. Disruptive strategies bring to the market a more affordable product that is simpler to use. Another way to look at it is to evaluate your current organization or field and think about finding the "blue ocean"--where is there a need that no one is meeting and how can you come up with a tool, resource, process, etc. that helps people get what they want. Sometimes it's good to try to keep playing the game. But sometimes the only way you'll move is if you start a new one.
These are my suggestions for developing your leadership capacities in a world where no one will be doing it for you. What strategies have you used?
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