Building the Next Generation of Leaders.. Against the Grain of Popular Myth

September 4, 2015 Christina Lembo

Building the Next Generation of Leaders.. Against the Grain of Popular Myth

There is a growing popular sentiment that says the traditional relationship of the employer and employee has seen its final days. This sentiment usually goes along with the idea that  every person will be a free-agent contractor with a high-value purpose, and that companies will outsource virtually everything to the free-agent contractors. Further, the free-agent contractors will intersect with businesses that need them on the internet through freelance sites or specialty sites and every person will be a business entrepreneur.

FairWarning® is a huge proponent of entrepreneurship both within the company and within our community. We have invested significant time, energy, and money on cultivating entrepreneurial thinking, and we will continue to grow these investments.

FairWarning® believes the entrepreneurial mindset is an amazing life asset for us all “to envision a better future state, and then plan and execute toward that better future state.” However, there is a big piece of the puzzle missing for today’s young workforce. The missing piece is leadership development and true accomplishment.

Today, as our University graduates enter the workforce, U.S. unemployment rates are down to 5.5% nationally, but this is not the full story. Our University graduates are very often taking any job they can get. In fact, underemployment rates or mal-employment rates are estimated to be as high as 36%. According to an article published in the Economic Policy Institute, today’s graduates will face 10 to 15 years of reduced earnings.

Today’s University graduates often work in the food service industry or take a series of contract positions in which they receive no formal training or mentorship. In my capacity as CEO of FairWarning, I have seen hundreds of resumes and interviewed dozens of bright young candidates with 5 to 6 short term career experiences within 3 years of graduating. In speaking to the better of these candidates, they most often receive no career guidance from their temporary employer, are underpaid, have no sense of business values or worse, they get mistreated so they believe that is what business is all about. They also lack a sense of true accomplishment.

At the start of my career I was very fortunate, and worked very hard to land positions at Lockheed Space Operations and later IBM. For the first ten (10) years of my career I was able to work with some of the world’s most talented people who played a major role in my career and character development through training, mentorship, travel and even personal friendship. My sense of accomplishment in these years was the foundation for my entrepreneurial career which did not fully start until I was in my early 30’s. I think this is more typical than the Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg wunderkinds who were brilliant at 19.

It takes time to develop the true skills to be an entrepreneur and there has to be professional-expert mentors with a vested interest in seeing you succeed. I am not sure how I would have fared as a graduate in today’s short-term contractor environment.

As a first generation graduate from University, these early relationships launched my career and I am still in touch with many of them today.

I don’t have all the answers, only what we do at FairWarning®. At FairWarning®, we indeed use outside contractors for specialty areas but we believe very, very deeply that there is a lasting role between employer and employee. At FairWarning® everyone is considered a team member rather than employee, even the newest entrants to our workforce. We are developing a new wave of talented young leaders by investing in training, education in all forms, mentorship, collaborative teamwork and yes, friendship. Hopefully, a few of our young leaders will stay in touch as they go on in their careers.

What is your opinion? I think there will always be an important role for companies to invest in their team member-employees and build a next generation of leaders. I just hope the popular media and unrealistic entrepreneurial expectation doesn’t set back a whole generation before we can get to them.

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