8 Ways to Lead People Younger than You

I wrote a post recently about how to lead people older than you. (Read that post HERE.) Recently I was meeting with Ben Reed and another gentleman who kept referring to how young Ben appeared to be. It bothered me and I realized I needed to write the opposite post. Ben is a phenomenal leader and agreed to help me with this post.

Here are 8 ways to lead people younger than you:

1. Give them the freedom to try, even when you may not agree with the idea. They need to experience failure and it may be a success.

2. Give them opportunities to grow…and help them see how they see fit in the organization as it continues to grow.

3. Realize the generational differences exist and they affect how we relate to people, change, and technology.

4. Allow flexibility in how they complete their work. They aren’t as tied to an office as other generations.

5. Although they do value wisdom, they are less likely to be excited if we always start with “When I was your age…” In fact, avoid continually reminding them talking how young they appear.

6. They are passionate about life…help them achieve their goals and ideas far more than you put a damper on them.

7. Value their opinions. The most successful changes being made today come from this generation. You may find one on your team.

8. Give them a seat at the table of leadership, even though you may not feel they’ve completely “earned” it.

You may want to read my post “The Pastor but not the Leader” for a similar thought, since most commenting on that post were young leaders.

Have you been treated as a “kid” instead of a leader because of your age? What would you add to this list?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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23 thoughts on “8 Ways to Lead People Younger than You

  1. Leading young people can be challenging, yet it's almost always meaningful. I believe mentoring plays a crucial role here as it helps shape and unleash their full potentials. Excellent thoughts here, Ron!

  2. Yep! I have been treated as a kid… in some regards I was, but that didn't take away the foresight I had in other areas… To the list i would add:

    Treat the younger leader as a peer… It will humble him and actually make him want to glean from you as an older leader. It will also make him feel that he is a lesser leader because of hi age or that he can only be "fully" a leader only when he is old. he is young but still a leader. perhaps less mature in some regards but still doesn't take away from him being a leader. treat the young leader as a peer!
    Twitter: blessingmpofu

  3. Great post guys. Some good insights here.

    I have been in that position where I am treated like a kid because of my age. It does the exact opposite of leadership to me and really turns me off to whoever is leading me or in many instances telling me what to do.

  4. Ron and Ben, solid advise. This is going in my leadership folder. Now if I can somehow get older leaders to read this, because I’m a young leader. I experience 3/4 of these needs on a weekly basis. Thanks for providing language to help me discuss it more intelligently. Be blessed!

  5. I am a 27 yr old youth pastor, I have been a licensed minister since I was 22. I think it amazing that you are being an advocate for younger leaders. I pray God uses you to open eyes to the generational gap, God used many young people in the Bible. He is using many still today. Thank You

  6. Great post guys. Obviously these tips are valuable in the workplace as well as church. I have learned that even in a manufacturing environment, today's younger leaders approach many thing differently. I especially appreciate the thinking of giving young leaders a seat at the table before they have "earned" it. I was fortunate enough to have several leaders do this for me and it allowed me to grow much faster. Showing someone you recognize their potential is a very motivating thing, especially for today's young leaders.

  7. Thanks, Ron (& Ben) for these very helpful ideas. I've found myself on both sides of this equation (even in the same day). Leading a new church plant, I find myself to be one of the "elders" even though I'm still relatively "young."
    One of the challenges with young leaders is to balance freedom and support. I'm all in favor of giving freedom to try and opportunities to succeed, but hate to setup people for failure. While failure isn't always bad and can be valuable, I don't want to just push people into it. Coaching and mentoring become very important, and sometimes the resources aren't there to come alongside people as much as would be helpful. In this situation, I've told people honestly that I want them to try, don't want them to fail, but cannot offer the full support they might need. I want them to be aware of some realities and be ok w/some of the limitations & challenges ahead of time.

    • I think that is right on, Jeff! Young people need opportunities to try and to fail, AND they need honesty and wisdom. I think the best thing a leader can say to a younger person (if they are speaking honestly) is "I see why you think that is a great, new idea. But I don't think it is going to work. At all. And this is why. But you really should try it anyway. Because I am curious to see if you prove me wrong. I don't think you will. But you should try."

  8. Man, I love this post! Ok, I admitt I have a bias because I am under the age of 30 but none the less this is very true! 3 and 4 are both close to my heart. I got way more done at the coffee shop than I ever did in my office (it might have been the coffee).

    What seemed to bug me the most: my ideas or visions would get shot down because I didn't have the experience under my belt to know that those ideas wouldn't work. It seemed to them that my lack of experience hindered my ability to lead. In their eyes my lack of experience hindered my ability; however, in my eyes their experiences hindered their ability. It was a catch 22 of visions

    • Mason, I have to admit, I get more done out of the office too sometimes. There is a benefit to everyone being in the office together, but I can't ever complain much on that one. Thanks!

      • I completely agree, as un-serendipitous as it may feel, a set or scheduled time where employees must be in the building as well as time where they may work where ever they are most effiecent and effective would be great! This would seem to be an acceptable compromise. What do you think?