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Growing Leaders Blog

on Leading the Next Generation


Immigrants & Natives: Four Questions to Evaluate Yourself


Dr. Leonard Sweet said something years ago that is more true today than when he first said it. He suggested that because of the fast pace change in our world, the human population can be divided into two segments:

  1. Immigrants
  2. Natives

You either feel very much at home with new technology, the new way of working in teams, new language, nuances and values—you’re like a native in this world—or, you feel a bit like an outsider to all these things—more like an immigrant.

It isn’t just about how old you are. Many Baby Boomers have totally embraced the changes in our world today. At the same time, some young people feel like a foreigner and wish change would happen much more slowly. It’s all about how you think.  If we don’t cultivate new thoughts and ideas—we will certainly begin to resist societal changes like a foreigner in a strange country. If we plan to lead the next generation well, we must work to stay current—and even lead the way—in our thoughts and ideas. Because we tend to get “stuck” as we age, this usually becomes harder once we pass mid-life. In fact, Dr. Sweet felt that people under 40 are usually “natives” and those over 40 years old are often “immigrants.”

To update you, some social scientists have already tagged the youngest kids, the generation following Generation Y, as Homelanders. This name signifies they’ve been born since the launch of the Dept. of Homeland Security, where terrorism and a poor economy marked the first decade of the 21st century.  When it comes to technology, they are even different than the Millennials. They’re the “Touch Screen” generation, not just a digital generation, as a finger on the screen that causes change.

Let me suggest four questions to ask yourself to see which you are:

1. When a new device is introduced to the marketplace, do you study it to see if it will improve your productivity, or dig your heels in and stick with the familiar?

2. Do you find yourself too tired to explore new innovations or new ideas in your line of work, or are you energized by the thought of exploring?

3.  Are you interested in talking to college students (twenty-somethings) to hear the latest issues or ideas that have captured their imagination, or do you feel apathetic?

4. Does your hunger to grow and improve outweigh your habits and routines in life that allow you to put things on “cruise control”?

One college student said recently, “I only call it technology if it was invented after I was born.” It’s true. You and I don’t call telephones “technology.” We use that term if it’s something that replaces an old “norm.”

So—are you an immigrant or a native?


P. S. – I mentioned Dr. Len Sweet at the beginning of this post. He will be keynoting at our National Leadership Forum, “Marching Off the Map” June 27-28. Check it out.


  1. Antone on June 10, 2013 at 8:18 am

    This whole discussion also fits nicely in the educational dilemma that gets encountered – “this is the way we have always done it!” And so change never is embraced and a more engaging learning atmosphere never occurs. Technology is what you make of it – it either masters you or you master it. And especially in the educational realm, we as educators would be wise to ask how new technology can help us connect better to our students. I try not to use technology for the sake of technology, but do want to utilize what is going to give me an increased opportunity to create “aha” moments with my students. Adopting “the new” is not always easy, but it is sometimes necessary. As an educator, I should always be about looking into that which will help me communicate my message more effectively, more rapidly, and more relevantly.

    • Tim Elmore on June 10, 2013 at 9:15 am

      Great insight, thanks Antone! I agree with what you said about using technology to create “aha” moments with students. I appreciate your perspective and hope that translates to others as well.

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Immigrants & Natives: Four Questions to Evaluate Yourself