Multigenerational Leadership—What Is It?

Generations of Change Conference cartoon by Lloyd Dangle

(Cross-posted from CompassPoint Nonprofit Services’ Points of View blog)

The first in a 3-part blog series by Jeanne Bell of CompassPoint and Trish Tchume of YNPN 


Jeanne Bell and Trish Tchume
The Young Nonprofit Professionals Network (YNPN) and CompassPoint share a deep commitment to nurturing a powerful and diverse leadership pipeline for the nonprofit sector. In our own ways, we have helped to shape the dialogue about who “next generation” leaders are; about what it takes to develop and sustain leaders in social equity work especially; and about what healthy leadership transitions entail as veteran leaders move from executive director seats into other sector leadership capacities.

For both of us, inherent in all of this work is an appreciation that while our culture has recently become fluent in distinguishing the generations by name and key characteristics—”Millennials do this” and “Baby Boomers do that”—advancing social equity not only requires all hands on deck, but can be particularly strengthened by multigenerational leadership.

That’s why we were concerned by the results of a survey we took at our August 2012 co-designed conference, Generations of Change: A Multigenerational Leadership Conference. More than 500 YNPN and CompassPoint stakeholders from across the country attended. As we kicked the day off, we asked attendees to participate in flash research—a quick pulse-taking of their knowledge and beliefs about multigenerational leadership.
Generations of Change Conference cartoon by Lloyd Dangle
Twenty-six percent of respondents said they felt no explicit effort in their corner of the nonprofit sector to embrace and leverage multigenerational leadership. Another 31% weren’t sure if they did—suggesting uncertainty about what we mean by the term and what conscious leveraging of leadership across generations could look like. While it’s a start that 43% did see evidence of these efforts, given the decade-plus we have all been at work on this, we hoped to be further along.

In that spirit, we’d like to offer a definition of multigenerational leadership. Note, we do not mean what each generation should do based on its place and perspective in the pipeline, but what we all should do together:

Multigenerational leadership is an organizational, network, and movement stance in which leaders of all ages prioritize their shared values and leverage the perspectives and capacities of all generations to achieve progressive social change together.

Does this definition resonate for you?

By Trish Tchume of YNPN and Jeanne Bell of CompassPoint

Resources:

We thank the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Walter and Evelyn Haas, Jr. Fund for their investment in our collaborative national convening and this blog series it inspired.