Young Managers – How Do They Lead Older Subordinates?

Effect Of Generational Differences On Young Managers

How does understanding generational differences affect the success of new managers? More and more managers are (and will be) younger than their team members. What must a “younger” manager consider when leading “older” team members? – Andy in Ohio

Great questions, Andy. As someone who has been on both ends of this situation (I have both led teammates older than me and I have been subordinate to someone much younger), I can tell you that the best advice is no advice.

No Advice For The Young Manager?

That’s right, the best thing for a young manager who must lead someone of a previous generation to do is to do nothing different. This is not to say that you treat everyone the same, you do not – real leaders know that they must lead each individual as that person desires to be led. And the best leaders understand the goal and they keep it foremost in their minds (without regard to the age, religion or sex of their charges).

Specifically, your first question about understanding the generational differences and its affect on the success of a new manager assumes that new managers must understand how their charges were led in the 1980s in order to be led successfully today.

This is a misconception that many new managers have. People are people, and just because someone is 20 years your senior does not mean they do not wish for understanding, personal pride and appreciation. Deliver your team honest leadership where you are the support and they are the superstars, and their age becomes irrelevant.

Younger managers fail with older teammates when their management style is void of respect for others. This is not a generational difference – although older subordinates will be less tolerant of disrespect – eventually, everyone who reports to a disrespectful manager will become disenfranchised.

So, Leadership Is About Respect?

That’s right – leadership is about people and all people want respect. They desire this alongside understanding pride and appreciation – but they’ll give up all of these to be respected and valued by their leaders.

Understanding this, a young manager need not get hung up about the age of his or her subordinates, he or she must just do what they know is right for their company and their people, and let the chips fall where they may. If the old folks (like TheManager) fail to get it, then fire us – just make sure you checked your ego at the door, provided us with support and led with respect.

So, what must a “younger” manager consider when leading “older” team members? Only this: your subordinates expect to be led, and they expect to be led by you, so forget their age and forget your age and lead them.