A couple of years ago 65 leaders from Southern Ontario attended our first annual Nfluence conference at West Park Church, London. It was a great time to learn from three seasoned pastors, Dr. Dom Ruso, Steve Adams, and myself. In one session Dom explained how to empower the next generation. One insight he shared that particularly struck me was this. In order to empower the next generation of leaders, we must become aware of our own leadership bias. We all have a leadership bias and must recognize it to effectively integrate young leaders. So, how do we do that?
First, what is leadership bias? Simply put, leadership bias is the subtle tendency in leaders to only look for leaders like us.
This bias, according to Dom, can greatly restrict engaging emerging leaders. If we only see potential in young leaders who act and lead like we do, we can miss potential leaders. And unless older leaders do a better job of engaging young leaders, we’ll only reach our demographic and miss the young demographic that often views church as irrelevant.
The first place to start to engage young leaders is to discover your own leadership bias. These four questions may help you discover your bias.
- Who is your leadership hero? The qualities you see in that hero will tell a lot about what you look for in potential leaders. At the same time those qualities can reveal who you may overlook because they don’t fit your expectations.
- Do you tell yourself that you don’t have any biases? If you do, you just revealed that that you are biased. No one is bias free.
- Do you have younger leaders in your life that you listen to? When we invite younger leaders to speak into our lives, we can learn much from their perspectives that in turn can reveal our own biases.
- Related to number 3 above, to what degree do you invite younger leaders into your decision making? Often older leaders assume that younger leaders lack the wisdom that comes from age. Although age can foster wisdom, 30-year-old eyes can often see current culture more clearly than can 50 or 60-year-old eyes.
If you’d like to discover your biases, consider taking the Harvard-based Implicit Associations Test. It’s free and it’s here.
What do you think? Is leadership bias that big a deal? How have you learned to deal with your own biases?