A Leadership Challenge to Older Leaders

I love leaders, both young and old. At every level, in every category and in every industry. 

This post, however, is for Older Leaders. I'm categorizing that as 55 and older. Now don't get all technical and age arrogant on me.... There's no magical reason why 55 is the cutoff. The idea is that this post is for those leaders who are "older in general than others around them." So this might apply if you are 45 and you are surrounded by a bunch of leaders 25 and younger. You get the point.

From my vantage point, there are some things those of us that are "younger" want the leaders around us who are older to know. These are just a few of those:

1. Pursue us- We're not in it for the long haul anymore. 35 and under leaders in general are more about projects than they are about careers. More about movements instead of organizations. So if you want to keep us around in your organization, you're going to have to pursue us. Show us you are approachable, and connected to where we are in life.

2. Understand us- make an effort to be in touch with our generation. It doesn't mean you have to dress like us (not all the time anyway!!), but when you make a concerted effort to be in touch with what we are in touch with, it makes a huge difference. We're motivated by making a difference, and being part of something bigger than ourselves.

3. Train us- Once you've got us on your team, pour into us. We may not show it, but we truly desire to be mentored and we need wise sages and mentors who will train us up. Constantly look for ways to pass on your insights to us. We are hungry for mentors, and are open to you passing on your wisdom. And not just your successes and the things you've done right- we want to know what you've failed at, both to make you "human" as well to learn from your experience so we won't make the same mistakes.

4. Inspire us- Cast vision for us. Motivate us through painting a picture of where we are headed. Lead us. But Don't manage us. Managing to you means something completely different than it does to us. You were schooled on the management theories of the 80's. Major generation gap here. And a source of lots of tension that is difficult to manage.

5. Listen to us- We have a lot to offer. Sometimes we're not sure how to best communicate it, but we do bring tremendous raw talent and motivation to the table. We are technically savvy, and understand how to make things happen through completely different systems and processes. Take a posture of listening to us before you dismiss our ideas. Be curious about what we know and what we can offer. Lean in to our wisdom, even though it's void of experience. 

6. Connect us- We are drawn towards community, and relational networks through which we can make an impact and affect change. Community is incredibly important to us, in any context. We want to climb the hill together, not by ourselves.

7. Challenge us- Kick us in the pants. Push us to continually and constantly improve and grow in our leadership capacity. We need to be coached, and great coaches are both inspiring as well as challenging. You won't run us off. 

8. Release us- Literally, kick us out. Not only give us permission to leave, but actually encourage us to leave and pursue other things. Once it's time for us to move on, we might need your encouragement to pursue what God might be stirring up in us. Especially during the last couple of years, when it was much easier to just hang on than to really let go and chase after our dreams. We're not leaving because we're "giving up" on your vision, we just want to make ours a reality.