Legal leadership age
There is a law in place to determine the minimum drinking age, the minimal smoking age, the minimum age to gamble, to get married and to drive a car. But at what age are you ready to become a leader?
Born or made?
In the first place we have to see what is needed in order to become a leader, which lead us to the discussion if leaders are born or made. There is much research done on this topic and still a lot of different views. The one which fits me the most is the combination of both: leaders are born and then made. There are certain people who naturally have the ambition to inspire others, who have a clear vision, who can talk really easily and who are not afraid of changes. But leadership training and real-life experience will help you to grow into that role.
Secondly, we have to investigate which skills are critical for a leader. In that way we can determine at what age you can learn these skills. Roselinde Torres provides in her TED Talk three questions to answer to determine if you are a great leader in the 21st century. The first one is the questions how your agenda is set, to determine if you’re shaping the future and anticipate change or not. The second one is about the diversity of your network: do people, who completely differ from yourself, trust you and want to cooperate with you to reach certain goals? And lastly, are you courageous enough to abandon the past. Are you instead of applying the same method over and over again, thinking about ways to get is done differently? Looking at these three questions you might have learned this during school at a young age. But I believe, but the more you practice, the better you’ll become.
3 generations on the work floor
A leader needs its followers in order to have an impact and get things moving. You might have seen the video about how movement starts. In the dancing scene you see one person starting, a second one steps by and at the end a whole group is dancing. But with three generations on the work floor you might wonder if there are enough people to be the first follower. Are they in for a new challenge, but more importantly: do they trust you enough to decide they’ll cooperate and follow?
Young leader disadvantage
Research has shown that it is harder for leaders under 40 years old to get followers and being accepted as a leader by other employees. This compared to leaders that are older. Reason for this is because other people think there is a lack of expertise and status due to a younger age. Expertise and status is something that comes along during your life. But this doesn’t mean it’s impossible to be a leader at a young age.
One of our youngest world leader is 33 years old and founders of Spotify, Airbnb and Facebook are all less than 35 years old. But same time we see a lot of CEO-positions filled by people over 50 years old. Is the older CEO doing it better due to more life-experience? Or might the younger CEO in fact has the same experiences done in a shorter time-frame? One thing to take into consideration is as well your real age and how old someone does really feel. And someone who has young looks, but in fact is much older. In the end it falls back on expertise and status. Expertise you can learn, status you can deserve, no matter how old you are.