Waves of rich sound were rolling from the stage. I nodded my head to the same rythm that was moving hundreds of heads up and down and undulating bodies from one foot to the other. Reggae music splashed in our ears and flowed around our feet. The band was awesome – drums, bongos, guitars, keyboards, base guitar, and singer.
But my brain was stuck. The singer looked like a 20 something skater – a white kid with a baseball cap, jeans , T-shirt and Vans – but sounded like Bob Marley. His singing was terrific – pitch, accent, intensity. With my eyes closed I heard a Jamaican native. With my eyes open I saw a Skater jammin on stage. My expectations were bumping up against the facts. My experince was marred by my brain’s struggle to match reality to my assumptions.
My expectations and my experience were butting heads. I struggled with a generation of Reggae singers that sound great, but don’t look like they “should.” This is a similar struggle managers and leaders experience when “young talent” doesn’t look or sound or act as they “should.”
For eons older generations have warily eyed younger generations; they suspected their fashion, tastes, politics, manners, and motives. Younger generations are a threat, an uncontrolled and unskilled mass of potential that needs to be molded and tamed. In truth, older generations see the youngsters and are reminded of aging, demise, and inevitable passing. Those who gracefuly accept their aging can openly embrace the power and creativity of the young. Those who deny their aging see only menace and threat in the young.
I’m not afraid of my gray hair or the occasional urge to nap. I love the open minded enthusiasm and unbridled optimism of those in their 20′s and 30′s. I invite leaders to face their mortality and their fears. Then they can easily co-exist with Gen Y and Millenials. By facing our fear we take back our power to choose. The powerful choice is to mentor the youngsters, not fight or contain them. The powerful choice is to plug into thier energy, not try to bottle it. The powerful choice is to lead from power and not from fear.