Wednesday, May 12, 2010

When Do Future Leaders Become Today's Leaders?

This post I saw on Association Jam about whether nonprofits really want younger members on their Boards got me thinking about the subject. As is sometimes the case, the comments thread is as interesting as the blog post, as members of the different generations chime in to defend their point of view and, sometimes (regrettably), to trash each other.

The report they're discussing cites four "disincentives" for organizations in recruiting Millennials and Xers to serve on their Boards:
1. Skepticism about the need to have younger generations on boards
2. Uncertainty of where to find younger board members
3. Preference for a "C-Suite" or corporate officer type profile on the board
4. Concerns of isolation (of being the only young person on the board)

In my own world, I've seen all four of those disincentives in action, with the biggest emphasis probably on number 3. The trade association I work for has a definite preference for "C-Suite" or other corporate officer types serving on its Board--and with good reasons. These individuals have brought us an advanced level of buy-in, immediate decision-making, and expectation for strategic thinking that has helped us advance many of our objectives.

But my titular question remains, doesn't it? We all know that the landscape is shifting, and that associations have to develop their future leaders today. In concept, younger members bring fresher perspectives and can help the association be more responsive to the needs of younger generations of members--people who will one day be in the driver's seat and who you will want on your C-Suite Board. By not engaging them now, do you run the risk of losing them later?

We're addressing the issue by finding opportunites for younger members to participate in other parts of the association--importantly, in ways that coincide with their self-described development needs and participation preferences. They are, by and large, people who are already very much in control of their own careers, and we want them to see our association as a network that they can leverage to serve those needs. That benefits them and definitely benefits us--both now and, hopefully, in the future.

What are you doing to address this issue?


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