Surveys are fascinating. I’m curious how what I believe in certain matters weighs against what others believe. Am I in the majority or the minority? Am I mainstream on who serves the best burrito or are my taste buds on the fringes? Depending on the issue sometimes we find comfort in being in the majority and sometimes we enjoy being the contrarian.

The General Public Seems to Have Little Confidence in Millennials

Millennials (and opinions on them) are the center of a lot of surveys these days. Many indicate the majority of Boomers and Gen Xers aren’t ready to place their confidence in them just yet. An August 2014 survey from Reason-Rube finds the majority to believe millennials are entitled and neither hard-working or responsible. Millennials also lost the audience vote after hearing an Oxford style debate hosted by intelligence2 on the subject “Do Millennials Stand a Chance?” Clearly, millennials suffer from an image problem with the general public. But is it that hopeless? Do millennials simply abdicate future leadership and influence opportunities because they don’t want to work for it? I’m not ready to give up. I’ll tell you why.

The work I get to do with Impact 360 Institute puts me in an environment that encourages and creates discussions testing one’s assumptions, much of it with college students in our residential Impact 360 Gap Year experience. I love their insight and contagious enthusiasm. In view of the mounting public pessimism on their potential I thought it would be interesting to do a small sample survey and see how interested they were in self-development. Most particularly in building the type of leadership skills it will take to influence their circles of friends, family, and professional peers. Are they interested on developing leadership traits or are they simply just “entitled” to lead someday? I was able to poll graduates of the Impact 360 Gap Year experience and asked them what areas about growing their leadership influence most interested them (if at all). What I learned was interesting and surprising. I’ll be sharing more in coming blogs but wanted to begin with testing some basic assumptions about how these Christian millennials view themselves as potential leaders.

The first questions sought to gauge the level of interest this group had in learning more about building influence among their current social and/or academic circles versus wanting to know more about how to build influence as a professional. All surveyed indicated levels of interest in both personal and professional arenas. In fact, 62% indicated a strong interest in learning more about how to be influential in their social and/or academic circles and approximately 73% indicated they wanted to know more about how to lead in their work. There were none in this anonymous survey who indicated they did not want to learn more about how to lead in these areas. Interestingly, when asked if they wanted to know more about how to be a better leader as a future spouse or parent the percentages of those who were strongly interested jumped up to 81%.

3 Encouraging Observations About Christian Millennials

Given the results I want to dwell a moment on the encouraging assumptions that can be drawn regarding this group of Christian millennials and how perceive themselves as leaders:

  1. This group wants to lead and is interested in how. As opposed to feeling entitled to lead the strong majority in each question wanted to know more about how to be equipped to lead. None self-selected themselves out or gave indication they didn’t see themselves as potential leaders. They want to make a difference and believe they can through the proper use of influence.
  2. This group doesn’t see disconnects between their personal and professional circles. They want to be people of influence among both their social and professional groups. It can be easy and tempting to be one way with friends and another at work. The data suggests this group highly values the opportunity to lead both in their social circles and their professional ones.
  3. Future family is very, very important. A surprisingly strong response among those surveyed was that they wanted to be prepared to be a leader as a spouse or a parent in a family they don’t yet have. It’s not only that they don’t see a disconnect between social and work circles, they also believe how they will lead their future families as vitally important.

Christian millennials, as illustrated in John Basie’s Impact 360 Institute blog College Studies and Eternality, simply can’t wholly be written off as entitled and lazy. Some already demonstrate great maturity in understanding how to gain influence and grow leadership. When you combine one’s social life, one’s professional life, and one’s family life you have encompassed all of the major identities one might have as an adult. When you seek to be the same person in all three of those areas you are demonstrating integrity. Being a leader with the same values at home, with friends, and in the workplace reflects a person of character, a quality studies consistently demonstrate as key in gaining followership. I’m greatly encouraged to see that those who strongly say they wish to learn more about how to be people of influence already understand the first step down that road is strength of character and consistency of beliefs across one’s entire day to day life.