This past month, we celebrated Father’s Day. Yet, we do not pause enough to discuss how critical the role of a healthy, emotionally engaged father, or father figure, is in the life of a young person. The reality is that the number of young people living without their fathers is on the rise. A Pew Research Center study of 130 countries and territories indicated that the U.S. has the world’s highest rate of children living in single-parent households. Almost a quarter of U.S. children under the age of 18 live with one parent and no other adults (23%), more than three times the share of children around the world who do so (7%). These statistics have significant implications for Generation Z (b. 1996-2010) and Generation Alpha (b. 2011-).
In their book, The Importance of Fathers in Healthy Development of Children, authors Rosenberg and Wilcox explain that involved fatherhood is linked to better outcomes on nearly every measure of child wellbeing, from cognitive development and educational achievement to self-esteem and pro-social behavior. Children who grow up with involved fathers are: 39% more likely to earn mostly A's in school, 45% less likely to repeat a grade, 60% less likely to be suspended or expelled from school, twice as likely to go to college and find stable employment after high school, 75% less likely to have a teen birth, and 80% less likely to spend time in jail. Fathers matter.
As we consider the challenges facing young people today, they desperately need fathers who are actively and emotionally engaged in their lives. We also need men who provide encouragement and mentoring to young people who do not have fathers in their lives. For those growing up without fathers, finding positive role models and mentors is important, as is pursuing a life of faith. In this month’s episode of The Leading Tomorrow podcast, I discuss this in more detail with my guest, Jesse Chukwemeka Umeh.
While technology provides wonderful benefits like connecting us to family who live far away, allowing for flexible work schedules, and providing access to valuable information, it can also disrupt our lives in many ways. Many of the apps we use daily are designed to be addictive, making it hard for us to disconnect or focus on the people right in front of us. Sometimes it is easier to just scroll through messages or news feeds than go for a walk, read a book, or actually call a friend or family member who is going through a difficult time. The constant access that technology provides can also make it difficult to carve out time for reflection, silence, and rest. The beginning of the summer is a good time to reevaluate our technology use and set some tech-smart goals for ourselves and our families. Here are a few to consider:
These are just a few ideas. For more tech-smart ideas, check out The Tech-Wise Family or My Tech-Wise Life by Andy and Amy Crouch or listen to the newest episode of The Leading Tomorrow Podcast.
Bradberry and Greaves, in their great little book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0 said the following:
Of all the people we’ve studied at work, we have
found that 90 percent of high performers are also
high in EQ [emotional intelligence]. On the flip
side, just 20 percent of low performers are high
in EQ. People who develop their EQ tend to be
successful on the job… [and] make more money--
an average of $29,000 more per year than people
with low EQs. The link between EQ and earnings is
so direct that every point increase in EQ adds
$1,300 to an annual salary.
While emotional intelligence--which includes skills like self-awareness, empathy, and relationship management--is emerging as critically important for leaders today, given the prevalence of technology, many young people are lacking in these skills. As we head into graduation season, many high school seniors and graduating college students are facing new challenges and opportunities which will require increased emotional intelligence. As leaders, teachers, parents, and mentors, we can encourage them to grow in these important skills that will benefit them for the rest of their lives. Here are a few ideas for helping the graduate in your life:
For more on students and emotional intelligence, check out this month’s episode of The Leading Tomorrow Podcast, where I chat with Gen Z high school graduate, Ariana Chaparro, about self-awareness and self-leadership.
As we seek to engage Gen Z, the most diverse and global generation in history, we must continue to grow as multicultural leaders and organizations. I recently read a research study by international church planter, Mark McKinstry, that provided some powerful encouragement on multicultural leadership from the Bible. The following is an excerpt from Mark’s Thesis on how the leaders and church at Antioch modeled multicultural leadership:
Musvosvi (2010) wrote, “The church at Antioch was as close to being a model as one gets in its ability to understand and constructively deal with multi-ethnic situations” (p. 48). If this is the case, what did the leadership and membership look like?
Some of our best clues are found in the words of the Bible. Luke, the author of Acts, describes the leadership team of the Church of Antioch, “Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul” (Acts 13:1). Based on this, we know the Antioch Church leadership team was formed out of a multi-cultural, multi-lingual, multi-class group of people.
Barclay (1957) explains the diverse team further,
Barnabas was a Jew from Cyprus; Lucius from Cyrene in North Africa; Simeon was also a Jew but his
other name Niger is given and, since this is a Roman name, it shows that he must have moved in Roman
circles; Manaen was a man with aristocratic connections, and Paul himself a Jew from Tarsus of Cilicia
and a trained rabbi. (p. 115)
Regarding the leadership team, Steel (2018) commented,
Paul and Barnabas were both Jewish but had been raised outside Palestine. Both were fluent in Jewish
language and customs, but they also spoke Aramaic and Greek. Then there’s Manaen, a man who grew
up with incredible opportunity and education within the household of Herod Antipas. Next there’s Lucius
of Cyrene, from North Africa, who may have been one of the initial evangelists who arrived amid
persecution and began \ reaching out to Greeks. And last but not least was Simon called Niger, who
was most likely a black African. (para. 12)
The unity of this diverse leadership team became a powerful symbol to the membership of the church and to the city where they lived (Steel, 2018). Additionally, the membership of the Church of Antioch was a reflection of the leadership team. The members were made up of multiple cultures, language groups, ethnicities, and social classes.
When I interviewed Mark on my podcast, I asked him what lessons leaders today can take from the life of Barnabas, one of the key leaders on the multicultural team in Antioch. He encouraged:
Good questions for each of us to ask ourselves include, “How am I actively engaging those who are different than me or who disagree with me?” “How can I embrace the discomfort and learning that can come with diversity?” “How am I developing and encouraging a multicultural team around me?”
Barclay, W. (1957). The letters to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians. Westminster John Knox Press.
Musvosvi, J. (2010). Race, ethnicity, and tribal conflicts. Journal of Adventist Mission Studies,6(1), Article 5.
Steel, D. (2018, July 25). What the diverse Church in Antioch can teach us today. Retrieved from
In the midst of what many are calling the "Great Resignation," record numbers of employees are leaving their jobs. In November 2021 alone, 4.5 million Americans quit their jobs. While there are a number of reasons for this trend, there are some steps leaders and managers can take to create a work environment that young adults find difficult to leave:
I am often asked how to remain motivated in leading young adults when they often leave an organization despite our best efforts. With this generation, we need to see every engagement as an investment into the future. Even if a young person moves on to another team or organization, they will take memories and lessons (good or bad) with them. May our legacy in the lives of the young people we work with be one of empowerment, wisdom, and encouragement.
Despite many schools and work activities being back in person, virtual classes, training, and work meetings continue to be a significant part of our daily interactions, and will likely continue indefinitely. As a result, we must constantly hone our virtual interaction skills. Her are four of my favorite tips for communicating and building relationships in virtual contexts.
-Tip 1: “Push” Important Info to Students/Team Members
We live in a world where notifications and reminders help us focus on what is important amid the onslaught of information we encounter. As a result, we need to “push” important information to students and colleagues. Extra reminders to team members on upcoming meetings or tasks can be helpful. Students may need support as they navigate online learning. I do this by posting and emailing weekly updates, highlighting what is important in each module. During the first couple of weeks of class, or when there is a new type of assignment or activity, I post/send a special reminder or explanation, even though all this info is also clearly posted online. Students benefit from knowing what to focus on, understanding how to manage their time, and getting information that minimizes mistakes or confusion.
-Tip 2: Be Present/Engaged
In the online context, students and employees cannot “see” us the way they do in a classroom or office, so we need to be intentional to show we are present and engaged. We can do this by contributing to discussion on forums, liking or responding to comments, and making specific comments unique to each student or participant when responding. I also try to reference student comments or insights when giving video lectures or facilitating discussions to show I am paying attention to what they are saying and doing.
-Tip 3: Be Personable/Authentic
Being personable online requires us to really express our personality. Including some videos and facilitating live discussions helps convey our teaching style. I always host a virtual orientation the first week of class so we can see facial expressions and hear voices. We can let our personality shine through in videos, posts, and comments by sharing personal fun facts and stories or using emojis. Also, responding to employee or student needs and requests for help with empathy goes a long way toward building rapport.
-Tip 4: Connect Individually
Learn specifics about each student or team member, reference these, share resources they might find interesting given their interests, etc. I create an introduction forum and ask everyone to post a short bio during the first week of my courses. This helps me learn and remember names and backgrounds. Responding promptly to questions and creating times or opportunities for appointments if students or staff need to connect via phone or video chat communicates you are available to help them.
Almost two decades ago, futurist and inventor, Ray Kurzwelli stated, "We're entering an age of acceleration. Because of the explosive power of exponential growth, the 21st century will be equivalent to 20,000 years of progress at today's rate of progress; organizations have to be able to redefine themselves at a faster and faster pace."
As we look at the world around us today, we can see evidence of rapid change. Change in technology, society, and generations requires leaders and organizations to adapt and innovate. This month, I had the honor of sitting down and chatting about innovation with Jacob Hancock, Executive Director at Seeds Global Innovation Lab. To hear our full discussion, check out this month's episode of The Leading Tomorrow Podcast. Jacob gave the following definition of innovation: "proactively generating and executing new ideas that create value." He went on to explain, "If we solve for challenges in the future, we are so much more prepared than if we remain in a reactive posture."
One of the challenges of innovation is the fact that it requires some tolerance of failure as we seek to learn what will work in a new context. William Pollard indicated why being willing to learn is so critical: "Learning and innovation go hand-in-hand. The arrogance of success is believing what you did yesterday will be sufficient tomorrow."
As we consider engaging, equipping, and encouraging a new generation of young leaders, we must be willing to innovate and model what courageous learning and growth look like in a complex and rapidly changing world. Below I have listed some great resources on innovation, growth and design thinking! I encourage you to add one or two to your reading list for 2022!
Resources on Creativity, Innovation & Growth:
Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All by Kelley & Kelley
Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces that Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Catmull & Wallace
Innovation by Design: How Any Organization Can Leverage Design Thinking to Produce Change, Drive New Ideas, and Deliver Meaningful Solutions by Lockwood & Papke
Designing for Growth: A Design Thinking Kit for Managers by Liedtka & Ogilvie
101 Design Methods: A Structured Approach for Driving Innovation in Your Organization by Vijay Kumar
The Census Bureau reported that 48% of Generation Z is non-Caucasian. Today's youth and young adults represent the most diverse generation in our history. In addition, they live in a world of globalization and technology that connects us to diverse people in our communities and around the world. As we seek to engage the next generation in our ministries, workplaces, and communities, we must be leaders who value and embrace diversity, and who model effective multicultural leadership. This month, Charlotte Kassis and Bethany Peters joined me on The Leading Tomorrow Podcast to discuss tips and strategies for growing as multicultural leaders. Here are a couple of key takeaways from our discussion:
As we discussed multicultural leadership, Charlotte reminded us that it can be harmful to ignore differences that exist, to work alongside someone and not know their story. It is important to acknowledge diversity, appreciate it, and seek to understand the perspectives and stories of those who come from different backgrounds. It is also critical to ask ourselves, "Do my activities, interests, relationships, and learning pursuits show that I truly value diversity? How can I grow in this?" To hear the full discussion, check out this month's episode of The Leading Tomorrow Podcast wherever you listen to podcasts.
May we continue to develop our cultural competency as we engage a diverse Generation Z!
Most of us are interested in ways to decrease stress, improve sleep, and stimulate brain growth and memory. And yet, research shows that silence does all of this and more. In a world where we carry our favorite music in our back pocket; engage in long-distance conversations anywhere, anytime; and listen to podcasts, audio books or funny Youtube videos on demand, silence is often elusive.
A recent study indicates that not only is silence difficult to find, but we actively avoid it. In an experiment where individuals were given the choice of sitting in silence with their thoughts, or inflicting an electrical shock upon themselves, the results were surprising. Even though participants had previously stated that they would pay money to avoid being shocked, 67% of the men and 25% of women chose to inflict it on themselves rather than sit quietly and think for 15 minutes.
As we head into the busy holiday season, it is important to prioritize making some time for silence and rest. While it can be difficult to carve out or choose time for solitude and reflection, there are a few key reasons for us as leaders to do so:
1. Healthy Relationships
Relationships are critical to our health and wellbeing. In today’s busy, digitally-driven world, our longing for deep relationships is greater than ever. Often we substitute noise and a sense of connectedness for true relationships. Writer Johnathan Franzen describes that “our infatuation with technology provides an easy alternative to love.” Ironically, it is often silence and solitude that allow us the understanding and peace to engage in deep, caring, healthy relationships more regularly. Thomas Merton, in No Man Is an Island, explains: “The man who fears to be alone will never be anything but lonely, no matter how much he may surround himself with people. But the man who learns, in solitude and recollection, to be at peace with his own loneliness, and to prefer its reality to the illusion of merely natural companionship, comes to know the invisible companionship of God. Such a one is alone with God in all places, and he alone truly enjoys the companionship of other men, because he loves them in God.”
2. Effective Leadership
Leaders today are confronting increasingly complex problems in ever-changing environments. More than ever, we need time and space to clear the clutter from our minds and focus on the challenges we confront. Author and speaker, Sarah Ban Breathnach, explains, “Usually, when the distractions of daily life deplete our energy, the first thing we eliminate is the thing we need the most: quiet, reflective time. Time to dream, time to contemplate what's working and what's not, so that we can make changes for the better.” Kate Murphy, in her article, No Time to Think says, “You can’t solve or let go of problems if you don’t allow yourself time to think about them. It’s an imperative ignored by our culture, which values doing more than thinking and believes answers are in the palm of your hand rather than in your own head.” I would add that sometimes the answers are whispered in our heart. When we fail to listen, in silence and solitude, we may miss the best answers to issues we are facing.
3. Identity and Purpose
In a study by anthropologist Emily Martin, an eleven-year-old girl from a broken home, who bounces between three households, explains that in each of these households the rules are different and so is she. Her identity, like that of many of us today, is defined by an external context. This translates easily into the virtual world, where our identities can be fluid and adaptable. Unfortunately, this also makes us vulnerable to confusion, depression, and a lack of confidence. Silence and reflection is the space where we can listen to our own heart and identify our identity and purpose. Carl Sandburg describes this beautifully when he says the following: “A man must find time for himself. Time is what we spend our lives with. If we are not careful we find others spending it for us. . . It is necessary now and then to go away and experience loneliness; to sit on a rock in the forest and to ask, 'Who am I, and where have I been, and where am I going?' If one is not careful, one allows diversions to take up one's time—the stuff of life.”
As leaders, may we prioritize silence and reflection, benefiting from the rest and understanding that come from these disciplines. More importantly, may we model these critical practices for those younger than us who are in danger of living lives full of noise and distraction, without understanding the beauty and healing of silence and solitude.
The following is a guest contribution written by Gen Zer, Ariana Chaparro:
I have seen so many conversations and debates over text message turn into ugly arguments because of miscommunication. Texting has become one of the most prominent forms of communication, especially amongst the younger generations, but with that comes many good and bad things.
One of the best qualities of text messaging is how easy it is to reach out to people. Instead of writing letters or waiting to use a house phone to make a call, we can just send instant messages whenever we like. That can make relationships (whether work-related or personal) much easier to form and manage. However, one of the negatives is how easy it can be for those relationships to be damaged by a misunderstanding through a text conversation.
I'm in a group chat with a couple of friends. We like to have conversations and debates about different topics like politics, pop culture, and religion. While many of these tend to be lighthearted discussions about our perspectives, they can get intense. Sometimes we misread a message, or the punctuation and emojis make it hard to understand the tone of someone's comment. Maybe one of us accidentally skips over the part of a text that would have changed the whole conversation. These can lead to confusion, frustration, and sometimes anger, especially if we feel like something was said as an attack towards us when that's not what the other person meant. Things can get very messy, very fast.
When we meet up in person or get on a phone call, things get cleared up so quickly. We can explain our meaning without reading between the lines or trying to figure out the tone the other person is using. Arguments that might have gone on forever over text can be solved in minutes over the phone or in person because it's so much more effective to express ourselves without the screen as a barrier.
In some cases, we can use our screens as a barrier on purpose. We're afraid of showing emotions through our voice and face, so we hide them through texting. We feel as though we have more control over the situation when we can take our time replying and rereading everything that was said. I'll admit, I am guilty of this. It can be so much easier to speak your mind online than having to face another person in real life. We feel almost protected by the virtual wall that is between us and others. Being comfortable hiding behind this wall isn't healthy. It can cause tension and resentment towards others because we are not expressing how we feel correctly.
While it's usually more convenient, texting is not the best solution to handling disagreements and conflicts with others. Yes, it can be easier. Yes, it can be more comfortable than facing another person. But shouldn’t we be okay with being uncomfortable for a short amount of time rather than losing friendships? Or risk hurting others and ourselves? Or being in a place of frustration and resentment because we cannot bear to lose this feeling of control we have?
Next time you are talking to someone online or through text messages, and you get into a disagreement, pause for a second. If this is important to you, take the time to call that person or reach out to meet face-to-face. It might be uncomfortable, but it's better to solve these problems in a healthy way, rather than in an easy and possibly harmful way.
Dr. Jolene Erlacher is a wife, mommy, author, speaker, college instructor and coffee drinker who is passionate about empowering the next generation of leaders for effective service!