I was talking to a client last week about the challenges faced by one of her team who’s just been promoted into a leadership role. After some discussion about the challenges and the impact they’re having, it occurred to us that the new promoted leader is the youngest in the team. During the interview process, it was clear to see that he was the best person for the role, due to his strengths and experience. We hadn’t however anticipated the reaction of the team when they were given a boss younger than they were, despite being more experienced.
So I did a little research into young leadership. American Express did a study and found that Millennials will account for over 75 percent of working people by the year 2025.
There’s a huge amount of talented, highly aspirational graduates leaving colleges and universities all over the UK, with plans to not just ‘get a job’, but get a job that shortcuts them into a leadership position before they’re 25 years old. There’s also those who shortcut even further, by starting their first business during their studies, and who are likely to be leaders of people by the age of 22 or 23.
But what are the reasons why us older folk would have a problem with reporting in to a younger boss?
Maybe it’s the perception that a younger boss doesn’t have the experience or skillset for the job? Or that their emotional intelligence isn’t fully developed? Or that they simply haven’t seen enough of the world or made enough mistakes yet to be credible in a leadership role?
Here’s a few things to think about if you’re managed by a younger boss and you’re finding it tough;
- Get to know your young leader. Find out more about their background, skills and experience and avoid judging them on their age alone.
- Give them time. Don’t judge too quickly. It takes all newly promoted leaders, of any age, a little time to bed into a new team. So be fair and allow them some time to build a relationship with you.
- Don’t get on to the bandwagon. If the rest of the team are talking about your new young manager, avoid getting involved in the office gossip. Instead, encourage the team to give them a chance and don’t be the stereotypical ‘nose out of joint oldie having a whinge’.
- Communication is key. Go for coffee and chat properly. Don’t just ping emails, get out of the office and discuss how you can help each other. You could agree a project you might work on together for example.
- Help your new boss showcase their qualities. Provide them with insight from your experience so that they can quickly and easily adapt their skills to add value to the team.
- Pledge your support. You can pretty much guarantee that your new leader will be feeling some nervous anticipation about building trust and relationships with them team. So pledge your support and tell them that you’re glad they’re on the team and you’re available to help wherever needed. They’ll really appreciate it.
So if this has resonated with you because you have a leader who’s younger than you are and you want to demonstrate your wisdom, remember the words of the great Jimi Hendrix;
“Knowledge speaks, wisdom listens”
Our next Essentials of Leadership runs soon, find out more about it here