The goal of leadership should be to point people to a better future. Better precedes progress. Progress precedes change. Change precedes challenge. 

Although it's difficult and often uncomfortable, challenging the status quo is where leadership begins. 

In the book, The Leadership Challenge, James Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner teach that "Leaders must challenge the process precisely because any system will unconsciously conspire to maintain the status quo and prevent change."

An organization left unchanged will conspire against the effectiveness and relevance of itself. The people, habits, or structure of an organization can get in the way of the growth of the organization if the status quo remains unchallenged.

Who's best positioned to challenge the status quo? The next generation of leaders...the Millennials.

Leadership expert and author, Andy Stanley, shares in his May Leadership Podcast, "Every idea and approach has a shelf life, and the next generation idea is more than likely not going to come from the current generation. A leader's IQ goes down the longer they remain in an organization. The person that has been in an organization the longest is least aware of the culture of the organization. It's often fresh eyes that bring the best ideas."

One generation's status quo is another generation's challenge to improve.  

Stanley recommends organizations create a "listening culture." An organization that is open to the next generation challenging the status quo, where leaders can get behind the next generation rather than seeing them as a threat. It's important to not mistake a challenge to the status quo as a challenge to the existing leadership.

Stanley suggests making an organization's mission and vision permanent, but the approach temporary.

Leaders should remain open handed about the approach and create systems or procedures where ideas can easily bubble up. Ask team members to be raving fans publicly, and honest critics privately. Behind the scenes, encourage young leaders to "make it better."

"If [young] leaders in an organization have permission to challenge the status quo, everybody wins," says Stanley. The Millennial leader feels heard. A possible good idea is gained. The organization remains relevant. And it creates environments that attract leaders because leaders want to be listened to and they want to feel like they are influencing their own destiny. 

Effective 21st-century organizations create listening cultures and empower Millennial leaders to be champions of challenge and change.

Published on: Jun 14, 2016