Affirmative Exiles; Why Millennials Are Blazing New Trails

By Steven A. Hitz, Founding Director
Author of Launching Leaders

March 21, 2017

Peter Drucker said “The most common source of mistakes… the emphasis on finding the right answer rather than the right question.”

My four year old grandson is passing through a stage where he is taking in life with a firehose.  His constant question is “Why?”  It makes me stop and think about so many things.  I hadn’t really given much thought as to why some clouds are gray and some are white, or why we typically eat a main course before dessert.  When I start answering his questions, it occurs to me that many answers are “because that’s just the way it’s always been.”

Ah ha!  Now we are getting somewhere.  Since the status quo usually means “maintaining” the same course or direction, and since for most millennials the status quo isn’t all that good, they seek to understand and ask the “why” behind the “what.” Millennials grew up with access to information that contradicts the cheerleading of establishment thinking.  Seeing the differences between establishment thinking and real time information, they have become affirmative exiles, purposely blazing new trails in search of better versions of the failed past.

Justice, integrity, family, happiness, discovery, passion, diversity, sharing or giving back are NOT generational values or traits, but are embraced by our twenty and thirty somethings like never before. In a 2015 study by Deloitte University, “The Millennial majority is transforming your culture” by Dr. Christie Smith and Dr. Stephanie Turner,  they indicate that two of three Millennials state their organization’s purpose is the reason they chose to work there, and only one in five who work in an organization without perceived purpose are satisfied.

The needs of rising Millennials in the workplace are not so different from their needs in the spiritual realm.  Both spiritual and business leaders have not caught up with the benchmark requirements of millennials and they (the millennials) are not waiting around.  Hence, their affirmative exile toward a more purposeful life.  Ralph Emerson said “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

As I have studied deeply the hearts and minds of the Millennials, the common theme I find is their desire to lead a purposeful life.  They are now transforming culture as they leverage their majority in the workforce as well as their majority in leadership roles, and are bucking the trends of past senior management.  If there is purpose in the workplace, the profits will follow; if there is purpose in worship, spirituality will follow.

What generation doesn’t want to have a more purposeful life?  Who doesn’t want to worship and work in spaces with more transparency, authenticity, and opportunities for transformation?

I say we join the exile from the past shackles of status quo and ask the all-important question “why,” in an effort to make our life’s purpose even more meaningful.  In doing so, we won’t leave any of the past great values behind; we will simply make them more colorful.  The opportunity to transform culture is not about competition, it’s about embracing a wholeness of life.  It’s about blazing new paths and finding a better way.

Join the affirmative exile.

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