Are you crystal-clear on your purpose? Jon Mertz is. His purpose is to guide, challenge and inspire people of the Millennial generation to fully realize their leadership potential. Mertz realized this purpose in an unlikely place: a grove of Aspen trees while he was snow-shoeing in the American Rocky Mountain range.
At the time of his “aha moment” Mertz, a vice president of marketing in the healthcare industry, was already working with young professionals via his online leadership community Thin Difference. He retooled his website to create an “intergenerational forum designed to support the next generation of leaders.” As part of his mission, Mertz has written a leadership book inspired by his pivotal trip to the Rockies. Activate Leadership: Aspen Truths to Empower Millennial Leaders is a well-written and fresh take on a generation that is often maligned by the over-forty crowd.
The foundation of the book is based on what Mertz describes as “Leading on Purpose.” He writes that leading on purpose is not only an ideal, but a way of life that drives people of the Millennial generation to a much greater extent than those who came before them. Supporting the notion of Leading on Purpose are four leadership principles that Mertz calls Aspen Truths: Patience Cultivates Growth, Collaborate to Create, Spur Purpose, and Convert to Thrive.
Each of the book’s four main chapters draws on the natural elements of Aspen trees to support Mertz’s leadership philosophies. As the granddaughter of a farmer, I enjoy comparisons to nature, as long as they’re thoughtfully constructed and don’t stretch the analogy too far. Mertz has clearly done his research into Aspen trees and the metaphor holds up nicely in this book.
One element of Activate Leadership that I especially appreciated was its tone towards the Millennial generation; I found Mertz’s writing to be respectful and encouraging, but not the least bit condescending. Mertz also recalibrates many tired stereotypes about the Millennials, recasting these attributes in a nuanced, yet positive light. For example, there’s the tired trope of “Millennials who don’t want to wait their turn/pay their dues.” Mertz draws an important distinction of the differences between “waiting your turn” and “pacing your passion.”
Activate Leadership’s advice is written for people of the Millennial generation who wish to make a bigger difference in the lives of others. For that reason, Activate Leadership will most likely be seen as a book for people who were born between 1981 and 1997. However, leaders of other generations who want to learn more about coaching and developing Millennials would benefit from reading this book as well.
I deeply admire Jon Mertz’s work in bringing leaders of all generations together to make the world a better place. His book is a great place to start if you also share that desire.
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