What Young Leaders Want

I love young people. Their passion, faith, and courage often put me to shame. They teach me, even though I’m the professor. In the past, I’ve written other posts about their concerns.  As I’ve worked with this generation for almost twenty years, here’s my most current list of what young leaders want, listed in no particular order.

  1. Authenticity.  They’ve seen enough of the fake. They want to know adults who truly walk with God, who are Christlike in public and in private.
  2. Modeling. Their heroes are often physically distant, available more online than in person. Still, they want someone to walk beside them, to show them how to fight temptation, love others, raise children . . .  live life.
  3. Consistency.  Young leaders have little time for friends or mentors who are available only for a while. They’ve had too many other adults who’ve not always kept commitments, and they want consistency.
  4. Probing.  They not only are open to probing questions from others, but they actually welcome them. I’m sometimes surprised by how willing young leaders are to talk about their issues. I trust they’re that open because they really want to be godly.
  5. Depth.  They recognize shallow Christianity from a distance because it’s what they’ve most often seen. When they see strong, deep, biblical, Christian teaching and obedience, they gravitate in that direction. 
  6. Teamwork. Some of this interest resides in a growing commitment to elder-led congregations. Much of it, though, also comes from their honest recognition that they need guidance. They welcome a team that helps them make good decisions.
  7. Vulnerability. Young leaders want mentors and models who themselves are open and vulnerable. Knowing their heroes wrestle with life, too, challenges them to fight for holiness together. 
  8. Experience.  My generation often leapt into leadership without looking to others for help. Young leaders today, though, strongly desire to learn from others who’ve preceded them in the journey. 
  9. Impact. These leaders want to be hands-on, personally involved, heavily invested in their tasks. They believe they can in the power of God change the world, and they welcome the challenge.
  10. Balance. They’ve watched families fall apart, and they don’t want that to happen to them.  Instead, they want someone to show them how to balance work, family, church, etc.  
  11. Answers. Even when they strive to stand on the Word, they still want to know why they should take that stand.  Their world is asking them questions, and they want to know how to answer them. 
  12. Affirmation. Some of the strongest young leaders I know still want affirmation. Dig into their heart, and you’ll sometimes find a leader who just wants to be loved. 

The church, of course, can provide all of these if we choose to do so.

What would you add to this list?


  • Thank you, Dr. Lawless, for such a well written clear and concise post! Authenticity, depth, consistency, transparency, vulnerability, hands-on experience (or time spent together) and affirmation/encouragement are critical to establishing trust, building credibility, and sustaining relationships. There are many who deeply long for loving, affirming, life-long, loyal relationships – yet many in this generation seem to no longer value nor understand the blessings of loyalty.

    We are not only called to be fruitful, but also to be Faithful. This is most evident in how we treat one another in our daily lives as our vertical relationship with Him, is seen in our horizontal relationship with others. Isn’t it wonderful how our Heavenly Father gave us the perfect model for us to mirror? He walked with them and ate with them. Being a Greek, I am biased to the latter. 😉 Blessings, Brother, on your continued work for God’s Kingdom. You are a blessing!

  • Real, hands-on mentoring It can be tough because we all have demands on our time. And maybe I don’t qualify for the “young leader” category as I’m 37, but I know that’s what I’m craving right now. Many of these items stem from that kind of relationship.

  • waderade92 says:

    I would add to the list encouragement. When looking for a mentor we, as young leaders, not only want someone to help and encourage us in our endeavors but also do them with us. Not only encourage us when we want to do a radical event of some sort but also promote it and do it with us. I guess the best way to say it is to not only have a mentor above us but also beside us in what we do and our passions. I honestly, as a young leader, could not agree more with this list though. Each one i could say that is definitely what my heart desires.

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