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The Champion Forum Podcast

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5 Strategies For Leading People Older Than You

Thank you for listening to The Champion Forum Podcast with Jeff Hancher! Today, we are discussing a question every leader will have to deal with at some point in their career: How do I lead people who are older than me? Young and low-tenured leaders need help discerning how to balance their respect for people who have been doing their jobs for a long time with the need to generate results. We’ll discuss two reasons you might worry about leading people older than you, and then I’ll give you five steps to overcoming them.


Why are young or low-tenured leaders worried about leading people older than them?


  1. New leaders feel like they lack authority.

They haven’t earned the respect of the team yet. They may have authority from their title, but they must build relationships before that title carries any real weight.


  1. New leaders have too much respect for their older team members.

When you’re promoted internally, you can have a lot of respect for the people who helped you when you first started working for that company. That respect can cause new leaders to hesitate to correct or feel very uncomfortable confronting their former peers or bosses.


Q: Do you agree that there is such a thing as too much respect? Why or why not? What else do you think causes new leaders to be uncomfortable leading a more experienced team?


  1. Decide if you lean more toward feeling like you have too much or too little respect.

Understanding where you are starting will help you determine your next steps and actively work against your instincts.


  1. Humbly show gratitude for their experience.

Humility is not a sign of weakness. If you try to take over and act like you know everything, a new team will not respect you. Humility plus confidence will unlock trust.


  1. Ask them for advice.

Everyone has blind spots, but as someone new to their role, you likely have plenty of blind spots your team can help correct. Don’t wait to make a mistake. Be proactive and ask for help. Be clear that you are a team and that feedback can and should go both ways.


  1. Appreciate your value.

Someone saw it fit to put you into a leadership position, so there are ways you can help them! Don’t be afraid to reference how you helped others succeed to prove your expertise and value to the team. This approach will build trust when combined with humility, gratitude, and asking for advice.


  1. Have a clear vision of what you want to achieve.

Setting clear and reasonable expectations will help people feel confident they can succeed under your leadership. 


Q: Have you ever had a leader younger than you? What helped or hurt your relationship? Is there anything you wish you would have done differently? Is there anything you wish they had done differently?


Application Activities:

  1. The best way to gain authority when taking over a team is to start leading before you get the job. Anytime you get a new job, start serving others right away. Look for ways you can help other people on your team. Get curious about their likes, dislikes, dreams, family, etc. If you have established yourself as someone who cares about others, is a good collaborator, and a strong communicator before you get promoted, you will be a leader before you have the title. Then, when you get the title of leader, you will not have to use as much time establishing yourself as a leader.


  1. Take a moment to appreciate the coworkers and leaders who have helped you get to where you are today. Write them a note or an email expressing your gratitude and what their support has meant to you.


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