What the current generation of decision-makers can learn from today’s younger generation

Photo by Andrew Itaga on Unsplash

History is littered with examples of the youth taking the lead to right wrongs and challenge the status quo to bring about significant change.

One such example is the youth of 1976 during Apartheid South Africa whose singular act of protest broke open the stitch that unravelled the hem of the Apartheid system in South Africa.

Protesting a language policy that forced black students in township schools to have Afrikaans – a language the majority did not speak nor understand as their only medium of instruction, saw a revolt that influenced the older generation to change their tactics in fighting this system which was eventually defeated and gave birth to the rainbow nation as South Africa is know today.

The world continues in this tradition of taking cues from the younger generation, and these are some of the ways in which the current generation of decision makers can learn from today’s younger generation.

The following quote from Cate East encapsulates traits the younger generation possesses that drive their wiring and view of the world. “…as they are an emotional generation, they are actually compassionate about their fellowmen though they may not seem like it. Nothing dissatisfies this cohort more than the need to fend for basic necessities, as it goes against their lifelong quest to find fulfillment and reduces them to their base human urges they consider beneath them, like fighting for resources and food—an anathema to this generation who puts a premium on self-actualization.”

While previous generations reached milestones much younger than the current generation, it placed responsibilities and restrictions that prevented them from leading from the heart – a quintessential characteristic of the current younger generation. It is this approach to life that sets them apart from the current generation of decision makers and one which they can learn from.

The current economic climate has forced the younger generation to focus on cultivating an approach to life focused on intrinsic values such as developing emotional intelligence which shapes better leaders as traits like empathy and creativity take centre stage.

As a result, communication and respect are treated as synonyms. This is a value decision makers should take into account as it is expected of any leader or decision maker to be relatable and accessible for their sphere of influence to feel seen and heard by them.

This is why social media networks have been such a huge success with the younger generation for events such as political campaigns. Peer to peer dialogue is important to the younger generation and communication across all borders, age included.

The younger generation also emphasises respect across social and political lines which is reflected in their use of inclusive language and a need to be politically correct so marginalised groups are not offended.

This has been visible in the social media campaigns that took traction in recent times and highlighted major social ills that need to be addressed such as sexual harassment through the #MeToo movement and police brutality and racism through the #BlackLivesMatter campaign which trended primarily on Twitter.

Such movements trending through social media and other forms of technology highlight the younger generation’s affinity to connecting to people vouching for a similar cause despite geographical location and socio-economic status amongst other factors.

The world has become a global village and decisions cannot be made in communal silos. The younger generation has come to the realisation that we are all connected and a small act in one part of society can have a ripple effect. For instance, the use of social media in the #RhodesMustFall protest by one student at the University of Cape Town in South Africa sparked a nation-wide protest against colonial figures and statues around campuses at universities across South Africa.

This cause eventually morphed into the #FeesMustFall protest which brought the Higher Education sector to a standstill and received attention from all over the world where students were protesting against the increment of fees imposed by the South African government.

For the younger generation, respect for authority is no longer repressively given but has been replaced by reverence. This has placed a responsibility on those in power to prove they are deserving of respect, which has changed the power dynamics between those in power and those they are leading.

The younger generation is no longer afraid to speak truth to power even in unfavourable situations. This has in turn created a climate across the globe where it is no longer a certain crop of activists doing the work, but a wave of young people who stand up for their truth, risking their safety in some situations. This approach is what will bring sustainable changes in the world.

From the boldness shown by Malala Yousafzai while fighting for the rights of girls and young women to have the freedom to get an education in Pakistan, even after getting shot and almost dying from the incident, to the Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg who boldly addressed world leaders at the United Nations climate action summit about the devastating effects of climate change.

She faced ridicule from some world leaders, particularly the president of the United States of America who sent out a tweet saying “Greta must work on her anger management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Greta, Chill!”. Greta in turn changed her bio on Twitter to “A teenager working on her anger management problem, currently chilling and watching a good old fashioned movie with a friend.”

She was clearly taking a jab at arguably, the most powerful leader in the world. This is the boldness that turns situations around. When one stands in their truth and fights for it despite any opposition leveraged their way.

The above are only a few examples of the many ways the current generation of decision makers can learn from what may be the most enlightened younger generation the world has ever witnessed.