7 Ways to Lead Younger People

If you want to reach the next generation then you have recruit and develop the next generation. They need your wisdom, knowledge and experience.

How you lead them, however, may challenge how you’ve ever led before.

Here are 7 ways to lead younger people:

Give them the freedom to experiment. Even when you may not agree with the idea — let them try. They may need to experience failure in order to experience their next success. That’s likely how you learned. 

Give them opportunities to grow. And help them see how they see fit in the organization’s continued growth. They want upward mobility. 

Realize the generational differences. Don’t pretend they don’t exist. They affect how we relate to people, change, and technology. Be honest when you don’t understand something they do. Ask questions. Learn from them. 

Allow flexibility. Don’t let structure control how people complete their work — allow individuality. Newer generations, for example, aren’t as tied to an office as other generations. Let them figure out their how — and often where — of work progress.

Limit generational stereotypes. The younger generation does value your wisdom. They want it. But, they are less likely to be excited about gleaning from us if we always start with “When I was your age…” In fact, avoid continually reminding them how young they are or appear.

Value their opinions. The most successful changes being made today come from this generation. Don’t dismiss their input because you don’t feel they have enough experience. They aren’t limited usually to all the reasons you think something won’t work. And, it just might this time. 

Give them a seat at the table of leadership. This is difficult for some older leaders, because you often gained your position through years of hard work. You may not feel they’ve completely “earned” it. But, younger generations want leadership opportunities now. 

To lead younger generations the bottom line is to help them achieve their goals and ideas far more than you put a damper on them. Be a people builder. 
Anything you would add?

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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Join the discussion 27 Comments

  • Everett Herberger says:

    Ron,
    May I add: An unusual sense of Divine direction or Anointing of God on the proposed direction might be attendant and very encouraging.
    Also, the lack of an unusual sense of God's Blessings attendant should not deter one moving forward when other confirmation is present.

  • Ephrem Hagos says:

    THE MEANS OF GOD’S CALL

    When God calls he invariably uses the means of his divine authority of independent self-revelations in VISIONS of himself despite human opposition.

    The following are highly constructive EXAMPLES with inter-connections.

    1. MOSES: "self-sufficient fire", one with no need to consume the bush (Ex. 3: 1-15)
    2. APOSTLES: "All authority in heaven and on earth" (Matt. 28:18) as recap of the humanly incomprehensible divine ID which "not even death will ever be able to overcome" (Ibid. 16:18) and
    3. PAUL: on the road to Damascus at the height of his violent threats of murder against the followers of the LORD, i.e., challenging the authority of Jesus (Acts 9)

  • jimpemberton says:

    A couple I would add:

    a) Pray for them. Throughout the years, I would notice youth who seemed to have what it takes although I was not in a position to do much for them. So I would pray for them to grow as Christians and the God would raise them up to be faithful leaders. Many of those I prayed for are now in positions of leadership in their churches. How much more should you pray for someone who you are in a position to influence?

    b) Disciple/mentor them. Show them the proverbial ropes. Tell them about why things are the way things are. Tell them about decisions that were made, why they were made, and why they worked or didn't work. Select appropriate decisions that you need to make and seek their thoughts on it giving your line of thinking as well. When the decision is made, and followed through on, they will learn to lead vicariously. they will see how you shoulder the fallout and they will share in the success.

  • Good post. I learn something totally new and challenging on sites I stumbleupon everyday.
    It’s always helpful to read through content from other authors and practice something from other sites.

  • […] I also wrote 8 Ways to Lead People Younger Than You. […]

  • Kent Julian says:

    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!

  • Ron, as always, good stuff.
    Please read my blog just posted today helping young eagles discern when it's time to fly. http://bit.ly/y1jmoo

  • 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

  • Kyle Reed says:

    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.

  • […] 8 Ways to Lead People Younger than You […]

  • David Lermy says:

    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!

  • 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

  • @mholloway49 says:

    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.

  • Jeff Lovell says:

    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.

    • ronedmondson says:

      Jeff, I have as well. Thanks for your insight.
      Twitter: Ronedmondson

    • Dallas says:

      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."

  • Mason Stanley says:

    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

    • ronedmondson says:

      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!
      Twitter: Ronedmondson

      • Mason Stanley says:

        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?

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