Now that I'm in my late 40's and have been leading for over 26 years, I don't face that situation quite as often. But I can definitely relate to it. Seems just yesterday, I was a young leader interacting with people who had been doing ministry longer than I had been alive.
Looking back, here's some tips I wish I'd known. I trust it will be a help to younger leaders who are reading this as well as older leaders who want to encourage the next generation.
Create teamwork through collaboration. Since you are younger and less experienced, people will not always trust your ideas and opinions. The key to overcoming this is collaboration. Don't just shove ideas and initiatives down from the top. Instead, gather ideas and opinions from people, work through them together and then move forward with what rises to the top. Collaboration will help you create the teamwork you need in place as a young leader.
Gain knowledge through feedback. Your lack of experience will naturally lead to people questioning your expertise, skill and knowledge. Make this an advantage instead of a disadvantage through feedback. Be intentional about asking for feedback about your performance and seek ways to digest and implement it. Older leaders will not think less of you for this. In fact, it will cause them to respect you and follow you.
Build trust through integrity. Older leaders will struggle to see you as a role model since you don't have a proven track record. Start building a track record people can trust by walking your talk, keeping your promises and being honest.
Deepen relationships through care. Older leaders will not open their heart to you because of your title. They will open their heart to your leadership because they know you care about them. Show them you care by taking an interest in them personally and investing time in them. Show them you care more about them as a person than about what they do.
Encourage through inspiration. Sometimes older leaders struggle with complacency, discouragement and even burnout. As a young leader, you can tap into the excitement and energy of your youth to inspire them. Help them break out of the box they may be in and help them stretch for more.
Honor the past while pointing to the future. Older leaders tend to reflect on the past. This will be heard in statements like "we've always done it that way" or "we tried something like that and it didn't work" or "we don't like change" or "remember how great it was when."
If you disregard or refuse to honor the past, older leaders will not follow you into the future. The future is built on a foundation of gratitude for the past.
The floor is yours.
Are you a young leader?
What are you thoughts?
What other questions do you have?
Are you an older leader?
What other advice do you have for younger leaders?
Share your thoughts in the comment section below.