There are many qualities that make a great leader. Experience, commitment, and knowledge of your industry are at the top of the list. But it’s important to remember that neither age nor experience alone defines a leader. There are plenty of examples where leaders have become successful despite their age and early career choices.
It Depends on the Position
Asking if age matters in leadership are like asking if height matters in sports. Certainly part of your answer depends on the sporting activity and the position you take.
Throughout history, women and men of different ages have held leadership positions. However, there are certain ages where some people are better leaders than others because of their experience and maturity.
How Age Affects Leadership Roles
The short answer is that age does not affect leadership.
However, age does play a role in leadership effectiveness, but not in the way you might think. There are some things that come with age that can improve your leadership skills.
Age Brings Experience and Perspective
The older you get, the more life experience you gain, which is invaluable for leadership. You learn what’s important, how to handle conflict, how to prioritize, and more.
Here are three of those qualities:
- Age gives you perspective on things that happened in your past. It’s hard to put yourself in others’ shoes if you’ve never been in theirs. Old age brings wisdom and knowledge from failures.
- Age gives you the opportunity to fail a few times before you succeed, and that can give you valuable insight into what works and what doesn’t. This knowledge will benefit you as a leader and help build trust with others because they see your dedication, commitment, and resilience.
- Age helps people take criticism better. When you’re a younger person, criticism can easily get under your skin or make you doubt yourself. Over time, people develop a thick skin because they learn from their mistakes and figure out what’s good for them. This makes it easier for them to accept constructive criticism from others without being personally offended or upset.
Are Older People Better Leaders?
The age factor doesn’t matter for leadership qualities if the person has the right qualities and experience in the desired field.
Greta Thunberg, for example, is a well-known activist who’s 18 years old. She’s tasked with being the voice of youth to raise awareness about climate change by giving speeches to political leaders, the older generation, and young adults.
Her influence has made her one of the most prominent advocates for climate change awareness.
Young Leaders Are on The Rise
The youth of today are different from the youth of our parents’ generation.
The new generation is made up of open-minded, proactive, and transparent people who want to make a difference in their lives and in their communities.
They want to stay informed about all the news, political, social, and economic changes in the world. For this reason, they actively participate in many global campaigns such as Greenpeace, Amnesty International, UNICEF, etc.
Our youth take responsibility for many social projects such as volunteer programs, community building, helping in schools, etc. They don’t wait for someone to give them an opportunity but create it themselves.
Today’s youth have realized that they have the opportunity to take responsibility while still in school or college by organizing events and participating in projects with their classmates or peers.
By the time they leave college, some of them may have had several leadership experiences through volunteerism in the community.
Benefits of Being a Young Leader
Energy and Enthusiasm
A younger leader is more likely to be full of energy and enthusiasm than an older leader.
More Technically Proficient than Older Workers
Technology is advancing rapidly, and many companies’ products are high-tech. Young workers tend to be more comfortable with new technologies, which leads employers to value them.
They’re better able to follow technological trends that impact the industry than older adults, who may be out of touch with what’s happening in the marketplace.
They tend to deal with smaller issues, so they’ve more time and resources to devote to other tasks than a senior executive who’s to deal with a major workplace or family crisis that could distract them from their job duties.”
Advantages of Being an Older Executive
Among the reasons an older employee often make more mature leaders:
Time Management and Planning Skills
Experienced leaders are more likely to have developed organizational, time management, and planning skills over the course of their careers. They’re also more stable and reliable and have been shown to have solid decision-making skills.
In most companies, men and women who’ve been with the company for a long time have more seniority, which means they usually take on more responsibility at work. They’re mentors who can share their experiences with their younger colleagues to help them grow as leaders.
An older person typically has extensive work experience that can help improve the company’s productivity and efficiency or launch new projects for the company to increase its market share or develop new revenue streams.
When these employees leave, the company must spend money to find highly qualified successors. As people get older, they also become good at multitasking because they’ve learned to do several tasks at once
Dangers of Age Discrimination
Ageism is a complex form of discrimination against people based on their age.
It manifests itself in negative stereotypes about old people, but also in “positive” stereotypes about young people and is associated with ageism in youth culture. It involves derogatory and negative stereotypes based on the assumption that older individuals aren’t capable of doing certain things.
The term was coined by Robert Neil Butler in 1969.
Ageism has led to many social problems between different age groups in society.
Ageism is usually directed against older people, but it can also be directed against young people and lead to the phenomenon known as “rejuvenation.”
There are terms that refer to discrimination against older people, such as reverse ageism or anti-ageism, which refer to discrimination against young people.
How to Acquire Leadership Skills at a Young Age
While there’s no specific age at which you must be a leader, it’s never too early to start developing these skills. There are many types of leaders in the world and they’re needed in every type of organization. There are some things you can learn about leadership and how to develop this skill at a young age:
Be a Good Follower
Few people learn how to be a good follower before they learn how to be an effective leader.
The truth is that most people don’t like to be followers and would rather lead than follow. If this is true for you too, focus on following others first.
Study their behaviors and mimic them so that when it’s time to take on a leadership role, you’ll already have some practice at being a good follower. It’s also a good way to learn about servant leadership.
Be a Team Player
Being a team player doesn’t mean you’ve to put your own needs aside and make sure everyone else is happy before you do anything else. Being a team player means that you acknowledge the other people in your group, understand what they need, and help them achieve their goals without violating your values.
Develop Your Communication Skills
A good leader knows how to communicate effectively with everyone in their organization or company. Whether you’re presenting an idea in a meeting or talking to an employee or co-worker one-on-one, a great leader needs to be able to communicate their ideas effectively so they can be implemented properly. It will also help you understand which leadership style is best for you.
Helping others on their learning journey can be just as rewarding as your own success, so don’t be afraid to give others the opportunity to shine and take risks. This will boost their confidence, which is helpful in all aspects of life. Being encouraging is one of the most important leadership traits of transformational leaders.
Take a Leadership Challenge
Maybe it’s planning a party for your friends. Or maybe you’re organizing a fundraiser for your favorite charity.
Even if no one is paying attention to your work or calling you a “leader,” the experience of making decisions, dealing with obstacles, and getting results will prepare you for the work and develop your leadership potential and cognitive ability.
If you want to take it a step further, join an organization where leadership development is an important part of the work. Many nonprofits have programs that encourage younger adults to take on leadership positions.
Do Leaders Naturally Get Better With Age?
Many people believe that experience is the key to becoming a successful leader, and it’s true that leaders gain more experience as they age. However, it’s possible for young people to become great leaders, and there are many examples of younger leaders who’ve demonstrated strong leadership abilities.