"To the next generation of leaders who lead on purpose."
Activate Leadership is a book written to help Millennials develop the necessary skills to be successful in their current or future leadership roles. The author, Jon Mertz, calls himself the “Millennial Guide” and is the founder of the Thin Difference, which is a forum dedicated to empowering Millennials to be better leaders, build stronger teams, and create richer lives. Along with his work in the generational leadership space, Jon draws upon his experience in government, large corporations, and entrepreneurial organizations to give Millennials practical insights to build their capabilities.
The book is told through Mertz’s unexpected encounter with Aspen Groves (a tree species) on a family outing to the Rocky Mountains. Using this experience and these trees as a constant metaphor throughout the book, the principles discussed are compared to the characteristics of this tree while also being discussed through real world applications. The book is broken down into four sections which Mertz’s calls the Aspen Truths. They are:
- ASPEN Truth 1: Patience Cultivates Growth
- ASPEN Truth 2: Connect to Expand, Collaborate to Create
- ASPEN Truth 3: Spur Purpose
- ASPEN Truth 4: Convert to Thrive
If you are a Millennial that aspires to better your leadership capabilities, Active Leadership will help you in your journey.
The Big Idea
Your Diverse Point of View
"Your point of view matters"
Before you are able to effectively lead others, you must first effectively lead yourself. The author makes a straight forward, often overlooked fact that “whether or not you take the time to define and be aware of your Point of View (POV), you have one”. In the book, we examine the following bullet points… Your Point of View includes:
- Leadership: Learned or Inherent
- People: Motivated by Good or Self-interest?
- Political Leanings: Liberal, Conservative or Moderate?
- Charity: Involved, Just Money, Both or Neither?
- Health: Exercise or not? Vegetarian, Paleo, Flexitarian, Uncertain?
The point here is that your paradigm (or how you view the world), affects how you act in the various situations that present themselves to you. This paradigm impacts the decisions you make and ultimately the results you get. Once you fully understand this fact, you can then work to mold your point of view (POV) to what it is you desire as a leader. To effectively lead others, we must first fully understand and be able to lead ourselves. Therefore, examining and being clear on our own points of view is a critical first step to leadership success.
Patience Cultivates Growth
"Patience is not about waiting your turn. Patience sets a pace to learning and strengthening your capabilities by doing the work."
The Millennial generation is the first generation that “grew up” with computers, the internet and cell-phones at their disposal. This has resulted in a couple of things that have defined this generation – the most educated generation to date, the most social generation to date, the most connected generation to date, etc. It has also caused Millennials to be the most impatient generation to date. Looking at this fact through the lens of business and career growth, many Millennials have the expectation of advancing quickly in their roles. That’s why this truth is so simple, yet so hard for this generation. As Mertz says, “for Millennials this approach is simple: Be patient for growth”.
Having the ability to “pace” your learning, growth and development will allow you to not get so impatient. Mertz also notes that pacing is “the art and science of timing” and “is a skill to learn and master”. As Millennials advance in their careers, they must have the patience to trust the process of their development and cultivate these abilities “by doing the work, honing the skills you need, and learning from young and old”.
Convert to Achieve Results
"With your adaptive tendency, you will make formidable leaders, especially with an enduring focus on converting."
The insight from this chapter is the ABSORB-CONVERT-ACT Model. This model “helps leaders train themselves to move themselves and others from idea to action”. To break this down, let’s take a look at the definition for each:
- Absorb – be an information sponge. An essential ability of leaders is to absorb large amounts of information in a relatively quick way.
- Convert – do something with everything you absorb. Convert information and insights into action.
- Act – action is the movement of ideas into the world: changing, solving, doing.
With us living in a world that is often in information overload, how you process information determines what you retain and how you use it now or in the future. Which brings us to the question, how do you discern what you absorb? Mertz gives us some good suggestions:
- From the information you took in, identify the big ideas, trends, or thoughts from it.
- From the big ideas, trends, and thoughts, what filters through as the salient points to consider?
- From those points, pinpoint the key action to move forward. Note: not everything is actionable!
This is critical for any leader’s growth and development. Being able to learn new information, retain it and use it is important to our ongoing development. A big take away here for me was to strive to be very intentional about reflecting on what I read, hear from a speaker, learn from a seminar/conference and determine whether or not this information will be helpful now or in the future. Over time, these practices will become second nature and strengthen our capabilities as leaders.
In a time where workforce demographics are changing more rapidly than ever before, the need for strong leadership is absolutely essential for success in any industry. The fact is that by 2020 over 50% of the workforce will be comprised of Millennials, which is pretty crazy to think about. With that said, it proves to be a great opportunity for Millennials to step up into the leadership vacancies that will present themselves. The only question is will they be ready for that challenge? With the help of folks like Jon Mertz and Activate Leadership, the resources are there for Millennials to succeed. So Millennials, your time is now, are you ready?!