Generational shift is on the horizon. It is not only about the leadership within political elites. It is about Cambodia as a whole.
Gradually, senior people are leaving physically and mentally. They want to have a good rest, but they also want to make sure that the future of Cambodia is in good hands and that the 40 years of nation-building and achievements would not be halted or at worst destroyed.
If tomorrow, our seniors say good-bye, are you ready to rise up to the challenges to shoulder responsibility of succession and to lead independently the institutions or fields that you currently belong to, public or private?
Below are the four messages to the next generation youth leaders.
Have we ever seen youth leaders, especially the core elites, camping together, swimming together, playing team sport together or doing retreat together for two or three nights, debating and discussing or fighting in words until they reach the level of “agree to disagree”?
It seems that they are all by their own. Their works often overlap. They all have their own clans. They have their own money. And the surrounding “yes-men” are chasing other non-clan people away. They compete, discriminate and exclude each other. No one really knows what the purpose of their competition is, but everyone seems trying to show that they are the best and strongest, independent from one another.
Some members hold multiple responsibilities in duplicating youth organizations. Some members belong to every available organizations and thus blurring what is his/her core competence and portfolio. We don’t know how to evaluate his/her performance and contribution. Is it based on visibility at every single youth organization? Surely not. No one can be good at everything.
Probably, there is a need for youth leaders to deeply discuss and re-design youth organizations to avoid redundancies, to divide labor and to ensure that everyone has different roles to play and has different platforms to shine without undermining each other’s values.
Indeed, this is not an easy task at all, and it is easier said than done. But youth leaders, especially the core elites, need to show example that they can work together, and they can be happy together. They need to learn how to enhance coordination across sectors and portfolios even if they belong to different organizations, and to develop the sense of inter-dependence, mutual complementarity and camaraderie for the sake of core national interest and the future of Cambodia.
They need to respect and give value to one another, give space and role to one another.
If they cannot work together and create harmony, their parent generation would not have a good rest to leave Cambodia’s future to the hands of the next generation.
Beyond the scope of core elites, the next challenging task is how they can work with Cambodian people with diverse social backgrounds.
The core elites need to create space for inclusive participation. Because if they cannot take care of non-elite youth, how would the general public believe that they would be able to take care of public interest beyond their clans?
Again, this is not only about public sector princelings. This is also true for the private sector leaders.
For civil society sector, it is likely that youth employment in this sector will grow smaller in the future when Cambodia is more developed because civil society is the symbol of external reliance, especially in terms of funding. When Cambodia is more developed, youth will shift their works from civil society to private sector with more independent mindset.
2) Humility and respect for elders
It is a general observation that the current youth leaders who believe, or make believe, that they are the next in line for ministerial positions, are becoming arrogant.
They don’t listen to others. They don’t learn from elders. They talk alone non-stop without giving the floors to others. Some have already shown abusive manner and behavior in their institutions.
They think that they are “perfectly” capable otherwise the senior generations would not have entrusted them with the next ministerial positions.
That is not true. Trust must be earned continuously. Trust can be given but it can also be withdrawn.
Some elders said they are not sure which situation is better, the old ministers or the next young incoming ministers.
Next generation leaders need to exercise tolerance, humility, and open their ears, minds, and hearts.
They need to find a delicate balance between different generations and different social backgrounds within the institutions.
The elders too need to play a role in supporting generational shift.
They cannot simply boast non-stop about their long seniority if they don’t perform or contribute to the institutions. They need to show good examples to the next generations, and transfer knowledge and know-how to them patiently, for the sake of Cambodia as a whole.
And likewise, the next generation leaders must try to absorb knowledges and experiences as much as they can from the respectful and experienced senior leaders. No time should be wasted.
For the next ministers or future leaders in various sectors, what legacy do you want to leave for Cambodia? What kind of Cambodia do you want to create in your own sector? What do you want people to remember you by?
If you cannot envision that, if you cannot make people see the same dream that you are seeing for Cambodia, it is difficult for people to follow you.
For private sector leaders, surely, you don’t want people to simply remember you as “beverage manufacturers” forever. You should have much larger dreams that contribute to the positive advancement, progress and wellbeing of Cambodian society.
This is an extremely difficult exercise, but this is the weight of succession responsibility that the next leaders need to shoulder.
They need to remember that they cannot rely on legacies of their parents.
They need to build their own achievements. The achievements that are built from real sweat, experiences and team-work, and not a “one-man show”.
Don’t drink too much. Exercise more. Don’t compete on how much you can drink. Such kind of competition is utterly meaningless.
Health is the core self-care for all leaders. If you don’t have good health, you don’t have good mind. Youth leaders need to mobilize people to do more exercise and sports and create a national movement for health self-care.