I waited a long time for my 30th birthday. Not because my 20s were especially trying or horrible, but rather I figured age would give me the respect and street cred I felt I needed as a leader. But when I hit the big 3-0, the sky didn’t open; wisdom didn’t shower down. The fact that nothing did happen gave me an insight: Leadership is about experience, not just years on earth.
I’ve been blessed throughout my career. I’ve gotten to work with many great companies and learned from amazing leaders. I’ve also been thrown into situations that were well beyond my years where I just had to “make it work,” as my hero Tim Gunn says.
Today, I lead teams with people fresh out of school working alongside people who have served on the executive management teams of FORTUNE 100 companies. They respect my leadership and we make it work—pretty seamlessly, too. Generational differences do not divide us.
Our success comes from being open to and valuing individuals’ experience—whether it comes from the classroom, the board room, the laboratory or the improv stage. I think people (no matter their age) want the freedom to express their greatest gifts and talents. As a leader, it’s my job to create the framework and space for them to do so. And that also means knowing when to let go of my idea or approach so that others can really make their mark.
I’m guessing I’m not alone—that many younger professionals, late-Gen Xers and Millennials, are finding themselves in the position of leading teams of people who have 10+ years on them.
I’m curious to hear from the young leaders in our community—what challenges are you facing in leading multi-generational teams? What tips can you share with us on ways to be successful?