Leadership isn’t Just for ‘Old’ People

Have you ever had an experience that changed the way you viewed the world? Last week, I had one when I watched a video from AARP titled ‘Millennials Show Us What Old Looks Like’.

In just a couple weeks, the video received over 375,000 views on YouTube. When I shared it on LinkedIn, it received more than 55+ positive comments and over 350 likes. Clearly, the message hit a nerve #ageisjustanumber.

But what if we changed our perspective from physical ability to leadership ability? Does age play a part in how people view leaders?

Our culture, as a society, believes leadership comes with age. To be eligible to run for President of the United States, a person must be at least 35 years old. Most organizations are littered with management teams in their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s.

But I want to challenge this thinking – just as the video challenged my thinking about older generations and physical abilities. If, in fact, #ageisjustanumber then we must apply this thinking across the board. It’s time for organization to provide leadership opportunities to those of all ages who act and think like leaders.

The Current State of Organizational Leadership

It appears organizations are failing to plan and leaving their leadership pipeline barren. A recent Bersin study showed only 6% of organizations feel their leadership pipeline is very ready and 86% of companies globally cite “gaps in their leadership pipeline” as one of their top 3 issues.

Millennials actually want to lead and they value their leadership skills being developed well before they actually manage people.

Currently, US companies alone spend $15B annually and on average $3,000 per employee in Leadership Development. Here’s the disconnect: all of that investment is made once an employee is already in a leadership position. Best known in corporate America as ‘managing people’.

A Future Vision

If there is ever a time in history that we needed more leaders, not less, that time is now.  Our world is changing at a rapid pace and in order to effectively compete in today’s marketplace, strong and next generation leadership is required.

The beauty of leadership, is anyone can be a leader and it doesn’t require gray hair, 30 years of business experience, or astronomical levels of business success. As long as people of any age, in their core, understand leadership is about developing people and helping others become better versions of themselves.

There are leadership skills that are extremely important, regardless of age according to Harvard Business Review.

leadership skills

Unfortunately, there is a double edged sword when it comes to age. Often times younger professionals don’t have the experience to have all of these leadership skills fully developed yet.  At the same time, older professionals have them yet forget their importance because of the almighty $$$.  The key is, if you can apply these leadership skills, your age doesn’t and shouldn’t matter.

What You Can Do To Help

Organizations:  Millennials are the present not the future. Getting them ready to lead and having them in leadership positions is one of the top 5 things organizations can do to better compete in todays marketplace.  Those millennials who embody what true leadership is all about will innovate, reinvent broken company cultures, and develop people at a rapid rate.  So focus on identifying the people with the skills needed to lead and less on age.

Millennials:  There is no better time than the present to step up to the plate, put on your big boy/girl pants and lead.  I love the  quote from Dale Patridge, “if you can’t lead your family, you can’t lead me.”  Start with yourself and your family and it will bleed right into being a leader at work.  Be relentless in your pursuit of knowledge, experiences, mentors and helping others.

In leadership, #ageisjustanumber. What matters most regardless of your age is can you lead others by motivating, inspiring, and helping create the best version of people.  If you can do that, you are a leader at any age.

Getting Leadership Ready. LearnLoft’s out of the box training approach to helping professionals understand what leadership is all about and to stand out as potential leaders. Find out more here.

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