Working with Younger Leaders


I realized something this week.  I have always thought of myself as a “young” or “youthful” leader.  I’m full of energy, life, vision and passion.  I’m moving forward and excited about the direction God’s taking me in.


Even though I feel “young” and full of life, the reality is that I’m one of the “old guys”.  Do you remember when you started out, when you got your first job?  You looked at the “old guys” and begged them to let you lead.  You wondered when the “old guys” would step aside and give you a chance.  You dreamed of the day that you would be able to call the shots.  I remember these feelings as if they were yesterday.

Then, I woke up, and I’m now an “old guy”, and there are a bunch of “young guys” looking at me, at my job and they’re wondering when I’ll get out-of-the-way.

Leadership is tricky.  There’s a balance.  We need the wisdom, experience and vision of the “old guys”, but we need the energy, the passion and the drive of the “young guys”.

I was reading a book by Hans Finzel, “The Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Make”, and one of these he addresses is our “top-down attitude”, the one where us “older leaders” like to stay in control, we like to be in charge, we want to hold on to our positions, and we don’t make space for younger leaders.

Finzel goes on to describe some things that younger leaders appreciate, and some things they are really tired of.  Here’s a part of his list:

Younger Leaders Appreciate:

*Recognition & praise

*Time spent with managers and leaders

*Learning how what they’re doing now is making them more marketable

*Opportunities to learn new things

*Fun at work – structured play, harmless practical jokes, light competition and surprises

*Small, unexpected rewards for jobs well done.


Younger Leaders are Tired of:

*Hearing about the past, over and over again

*Inflexibility about time


*Being watched and scrutinized for every little thing

*Feeling pressure to convert to traditionalist behavior

*Disparaging comments about their generation’s tastes and styles

*Feeling disrespected

This goes both ways, and I don’t want to single out only the “older leaders”.

The reality is that we need to work together. There is such value in learning from each other, in creating space for both groups to work in their strengths, and in learning to identify and communicate our differences.

If you’re an older leader like me, make some space. Give younger leaders some opportunities to succeed and to fail.  Give them the chance to truly lead.  Don’t hog leadership, share it.

If you’re a younger leader, realize that there’s some wisdom that comes from experience, but also realize that our desire is for growth, effectiveness and impact.  Buy into that vision, and we’ll give you opportunity.

How are you doing with younger leaders within your organization?  

Are you investing in them?  

Are you seeing potential in them?  

Don’t be so busy doing your job that you miss this opportunity to coach, mentor and invest in others.

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