“Young leaders deserve a chance to lead before they are qualified seniors at Denny’s or Red Lobster.”

Current leaders must mentor future leaders and give them ever increasing and more challenging leadership opportunities. If not, you create a generational leadership vacuum. Mentors are wise and trustworthy guides that tie yesterday’s experience and wisdom to today’s opportunities and tomorrow’s possibilities while it still matters.

Great leaders beget future leaders and keep them for the long haul. Poor leaders attract passionate followers, but soon lose them because they never allow them the opportunity to drive the car by themselves until the model is outdated and the fuel tank is empty.

“Under the banyan tree, nothing grows.” This Indian proverb suggests that some so-called great leaders stunt the growth of those around them, especially future leaders who may threaten their domain. The greatness of their leadership dies with them.

It is only by releasing future leaders to significant opportunities that you are considered a great leader. The Master teaches everything He knows to the apprentice. He holds nothing in reserve out of fear that he may lose his position and influence.

Future leaders develop best when given on-the-job opportunities and real experience, not sitting in classroom lectures and reading leadership books. Too many rise to places of influence because they read a book, heard a book, rehearsed a book and now “lead by the book.” There is no smell of battlefield smoke on these armchair generals!

Mentoring and coaching at all levels of leadership is a way of life, not a principle, system or program. It does not need organized as much as it needs encouraged, most of all by senior leaders, or it simply does not happen. At some point, you hand over the reins of leadership influence willingly, or they are taken from you, most of time when you least expect or desire to give them up.

Young leaders need to face and overcome ever-increasing challenges first hand, not just watch you do it. If you want your organization to grow, create the conditions necessary for growth. You can do no better than by giving your young emerging leaders the chance to drive the bus, not find more ways to make them comfortable riding while you drive on into infinity.

Do not keep driving until one day you stop, get off the bus, throw the keys to the new leader and disappear. Every young leader needs you riding the bus, not as their mentor, but as their encourager for a few years before you get off. They need the benefit of your wisdom of the road, driving experience and trust in their abilities to lead. You cannot provide that from the side of the road when they pass by occasionally. Those days come later.

We all need challenging opportunities to grow, especially future leaders. Only by asking for the ”impossible” do we obtain the very best possible. Stretching is painful. However, it’s the only way to gain substantial and sustainable victories.

Senior leaders, in your stretching for the finish line, don’t make the young leaders have to pry your fingers from the baton. When both of you have a firm grip on the baton (the future), it won’t drop. It’s called passing the baton, not catch me if you can.

The best young leaders don’t like to chase you down the track, regardless of how gifted and successful you are, wondering when it will be their time to lead. You can lead till you drop, or you can have the joy of cheering for your successor before you exit the planet, but you can’t have both.

Which do you want?