Great leaders come from all stripes of life. People who grew up impoverished and people who’ve lived life in the lap of luxury can both make strong leaders.
A Case for Diversity
The world has seen its share of wonderful rulers from every segment of the population.
- Black, Brown, Red, White, Yellow
- Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindi
- Male or female
- Rich, poor, or middle class
- Pretty, handsome, or otherwise..
But What About Age?
However, the one trait that can still call into question a person’s leadership ability: Their Age.
- This happens for older experts whose time is considered “past.”
- But it occurs even more frequently for young professionals in the workplace.
Colleagues, partners, and competitors may call into question young leaders’ knowledge, clout, or consistency. But it’s up to us young leaders to work against these stereotypes and prove them wrong.
How to Make Youth an Asset
Some consider youth to be a handicap. They insist that newbies have less experience and, therefore, less maturity.
Others see youth as an asset: youthful inexperience creates more motivated workers who bring a fresh eye to their industries.
In reality, it all comes down to the young person you’re talking about – just like Jobs and Gandhi, no two junior employees are the same.
This means that it’s up to each of us, as individuals, to make a case for our value.
Simply Out Run ‘Em
Your Recipe For Success
Establishing yourself as an expert when you lack long-term experience is simple: you have to work much harder than anyone else.
In the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, he maintains that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert in any field. If you’re green and a little rough around the edges, your goal should be to get to 10,000 hours faster than anyone else.
Not only does this accelerate the pace at which you gain expertise, but it puts your raw motivation on display for your colleagues to see.
However, don’t limit your quest for expertise to your own experience.
Realize that you don’t know everything and that everyone you come across can teach you something. Keep an open mind and talk to anyone you can because you never know what kind of information you’ll soak up.
Your interest in others will prove you’re more than a flash in the pan. And it conveys your genuine enthusiasm for your industry.
Bridge the Generational Gap
I have always been one to ignore naysayers and anyone who’s negative in general. (This asset is something I recommend any young leaders get into their own asset column.)
I am also a young leader. But most people don’t ask my age when we first meet. This is simply because I’m confident in what I have to bring to the table. This avoidance of negative influences feeds my confidence and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
However, just because negative people are best avoided doesn’t mean you won’t run into them at work.
People who question your perspective because of your age will need to be won over. In these cases, remember that actions speak louder than words.
You can tell people how awesome you are, and try to convince them you’re a great leader. But this won’t mean a thing until someone chooses to actually follow you.
How to Represent
Simply being consistent and maintaining open lines of communication with your colleagues – of all ages – will go a long way toward convincing people you’re a class act (without you having to say a word).
If you act like an immature jerk, co-workers will treat you like one.
But if you carry yourself in a professional manner and learn when to talk – and when to listen – it will cement your reputation as a worthy contributor. Finally, if the age difference between you and your colleagues is still difficult to bridge, go to a happy hour with them.
Food and drinks always soften and expand relationships. It’s hard to hate the young guy who bought you a beer!
Combating Age Discrimination
People get in their own way more than other obstacles that are thrown at them. Being afraid of being discriminated against is prematurely setting yourself up for failure.
Believe in yourself, and you’ll develop relationships apart from any age considerations.
I have worked with several partners and clients who’ve never brought up age with me. That is, until months or years later, when the relationship is already established and the number itself is merely a surprise.
Those relationships still stand on what they were originally built.
Confidence and Appearance Count
Maintaining a professional appearance and projecting confidence is key. I won’t shut down a potential relationship before it even starts by radiating an unapproachable demeanor. That’s not to say that anything goes.
In truth, we all get to choose the people we work with.
You want to make sure that it’s a fit for both sides in order to make it work. Try to find common ground – not only will it negate age concerns, but it will also ensure that you’re representing yourself and your company in a way you can be proud of for years.
Great leaders come from all walks of life. Don’t let your inexperience or youth bar you from becoming one. Learn all you can, get to know your colleagues, and bring your confidence to work every day.
Soon, no one will remember how old you are – and that’s just the way you want it.
Is your age, your or old, affecting your leadership? What are you doing to bridge the generational gap between your colleagues? How are you encouraging the young leaders in your company? What do we need to do as a society to combat questioning leaders because of their age? I would love to hear your thoughts.
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Image Sources: visualphotos.com
- The Timidity of Our Youth (mypentecostalreformation.com)
- Youth making this ever waiting change (thenewpoliticalparty.wordpress.com)