Cambria C. Khayat, US Projects Manager, Common Purpose / 20 February 2024

Leading Beyond Age: A Fresh Perspective on Leading Older Team Members

Our US Projects Manager, Cambria C. Khayat shares five tips to help you not just manage, but truly lead across age divides.


Navigating the delicate terrain of leading someone older than you requires a unique blend of self-awareness, empathy, and adaptability. In this blog post, we'll explore five tips to help you not just manage but truly lead across age divides. From handling insecurities to investing in your leadership development, these tips will guide you on the path to successful leadership, regardless of the years on your birth certificate.

Tip 1: Embrace Authenticity and Self-Awareness

As a young leader or an individual leading someone older than you, it's natural to grapple with imposter syndrome. The key is not to let these insecurities dictate your leadership style. Be authentic, acknowledge your strengths, and embrace your journey. Understand that leadership is not about age but about capability. In fact, newness can be a strength, so that you are not confined to leadership jail of ‘that’s how we have always done it.’ Instead of overcompensating, trust in your abilities, seek counsel when needed, and let your authenticity shine through.

Tip 2: Prepare for Pushback with Confidence

The age question is inevitable, and rather than being caught off guard, prepare a response that reflects confidence and a touch of humor. Whether you choose to share your age or playfully deflect the question, the goal is to steer the conversation back to your leadership skills. By having a well-thought-out response, you control the narrative, preventing age from becoming a distracting topic.

Tip 3: Lead with Empathy and Find Common Ground

Age gaps often highlight differences, but effective leaders focus on commonalities. Practice empathy by understanding your team members as individuals. Look beyond generational disparities and identify shared goals and values. By fostering unity through shared experiences, you'll create a more cohesive team that rallies behind the strong vision you may cast as a leader.

Tip 4: Seek Wisdom and Stay Humble

Acknowledging the experience of those older than you is a strength, not a weakness. While older doesn't always mean wiser, it often brings valuable experience to the table. Leverage the strengths of your team by getting to know each member individually. Be open to seeking advice, encourage diverse opinions, and honor the unique talents of your team. A humble leader who continuously develops themselves inspires a team to do the same.

Tip 5: Invest in Your Leadership Development

To lead effectively, invest in your own growth. By constantly learning and refining your skills, you'll stand out as a capable leader, irrespective of age. Investing in your leadership can look like, taking on different volunteer leader roles for practice, inviting a trusted mentor into your life to encourage and equip you, or applying for a leadership development program, like one of the many that Common Purpose offers. The investment you make in your leadership will not only benefit you but also empower your team to shine collectively.

Leading across an age gap requires finesse, self-awareness, and a commitment to continuous improvement. Embrace your authenticity, navigate questions with confidence, foster unity through empathy, leverage the experience of your team, and invest in your leadership development. As you hone these skills, you'll find that effective leadership knows no age limits.


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