The leaders of the future

The leaders of the future

Donald L. Kussmaul

During the past year, Bill Strauss, co-author of Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation, has provided AASA with programs, information and data about American generations past, present and future. Knowing and understanding the effects one generation has on the next is significant when determining the role future generations will have in the ongoing development of our nation.

The future education leaders of the country will determine the process by which educational access for all will be transformed to educational proficiency for all. Then they will be charged with passing the torch on to future generations. Educational excellence for all is not a 13-year process from start to finish; it is a lifelong pursuit and must be nurtured as such across the generations.

Who are these future leaders? GenXers–those between 19 and 39 years of age–think differently, process information differently and solve problems much more pragmatically than do baby boomers. They grew up in an era much different from the boomers: Child nurturing was underprotective, family stability was declining, family policy was based on the needs of adults, school emphasis was on liberation, crime and drug use were on the rise, popular culture was confrontational, the gender-role gap was narrowing, income equality was peaking, fiscal tilt was toward retirees, and public generosity was peaking.

The GenXers learned at an early age to become free agents, to rely only on a small circle of friends and family and to pursue the tangibles of life. As college freshmen they were less argumentative than their predecessors. They are the true pragmatists–more interested in knowing the bottom line and hearing about it through no more than a sound bite. They are the technology kids, the MTV gurus.

When I meet with the education leaders in different states, national education organizations and business groups, I ask this question: How many here were born between 1965 and 1985?

In one room of 250 attendees four raised their hands. Two were presenters, one represented a vendor, and a fourth was an assistant superintendent. In a group of 110 rural school leaders, the three who raised their hands were all associated with vendors at the conference.

On another occasion, I was involved in a think tank that addressed the needs of future education leaders. The participants included some very distinguished minds in educational leadership. We discussed leadership for the future–what it would look like, what leaders would need to know, and how would we prepare them for their roles and responsibilities. This group had one GenXer, and she was the note-taker for the meeting.

And now, if we baby boomers are willing to let go to help the GenXers seek their destiny, a new generation will begin to emerge to fill the role of educational leader. We have the wisdom of the past and the knowledge of the present, and they carry the hope for the future. Our role over the next decade is to begin transitioning educational leadership to them while outlining the significance of education to our country and defining the role that education plays in the strength of our democracy.

The next generation of educational leaders is going to have to step up to the plate and do so soon. Then we, the experienced education leaders, can provide the proving ground for this new breed to learn and prosper. Rethink your position as a leader from what you are doing now to what you can give to the future. This is just another way for our generation to Stand Up For Public Education–The Heart of Our Democracy[TM].

COPYRIGHT 2005 American Association of School Administrators

COPYRIGHT 2005 Gale Group