It’s not about age. Experience + Freshness is the key.

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Diversity in the Leadership Team is critical to success. One aspect of diversity is age. Fuelled by the speed of change & paradigm shift in connectivity of the past decade, the difference in perspective between generations is significant. So, for businesses, it is smart to bring younger leaders in to the Leadership Team as part of the mix.

With the recent arrival a number of young national political leaders, along with the many young highly successful business entrepreneurs the world over, I find myself wondering if we are heading toward ever younger CEO’s?

This thought brings in to perspective the critical importance of several factors, which leads me to feel that….. the key is leaders who combine experience & freshness, who live life as an opportunity for constant learning rather than a test. They can of course be young, but there are some powerful traits that come with experience, which takes time.

1) Learning on the job

Getting things wrong, living through one’s own errors and the errors of others, learning and adapting, is invaluable. You can read about it, hear about it, but you only truly learn when you have lived through it (several times) and learnt about yourself and about people & organisations under stress.

As we reach senior roles, we are faced by a cocktail of new challenges & behaviours by those around us:

  • An expectation by some that we “know the answers†immediately … and the risk of ‘ego’ to act as if we do!
  • High potency early in role, when we know the least … people want you to be a success, you are new and interesting, you haven’t made any mistakes yet!
  • Information filtering …. ‘(s)he doesn’t need to know about that’ …. so you need to really know how to use information cadence for yourself and your team.
  • Multiple interacting concepts affecting the business at any one time, e.g. multiple change programmes cutting across each other or multiple digital ecosystems interacting but tangential to each other.

I wander how many senior leaders believe they were at their best in their first big role, when they encountered these types of things for the first time … or perhaps it was the second or third time, when they were really ‘in the zone’?

2) Being able to take multiple perspectives

Being genuinely capable of seeing the world through multiple perspectives, brings adaptive capability – greater capacity to make sense of the world, to avoid labelling people. If one has lived a relatively short and/or uniform life, there is a risk to have a more narrow mindset in anticipating and acting upon events. This is risky, especially in a fast moving world mixed with the pressure of big roles.

There are of course older people who have settled on a fixed perspective of the world, and cannot be moved …so ‘years in the saddle’, is not on its own an answer!

A key, I suggest is to take the opportunity of new experiences, beyond one’s comfort zone, to spend time with people different from ourselves and in new situations. Each time, feeling and understanding the new perspective. Simple examples – how easy is it to understand the challenges of living outside your

culture, until you have done so yourself? How easy is it to understand being the minority in a team until you have been a minority in some situations?

This is of course, linked with, growth mindset … living life as an opportunity to learn, rather than a test.

3) Intuition and Wisdom require experience

Intuition is knowing what to do, without knowing how you know. For most of us, most of the time, intuition comes from lots of experience, leading to learning. If the world we are experiencing is regular, the learning is easier. Then when we are confronted by a new situation, our subconscious recognises the pattern in the new situation, accesses the learning, & gives us an intuitive answer – what to do. However our world now is not at all regular!


Our generation’s great leaders will embrace leadership that is constantly trying to improve, that asks questions and wants to confront the tough answers, that truly believes life is not a test but rather is an opportunity for learning. This leadership understands that a diverse team will by definition bring different perspectives to the room, will represent the true world in which we operate, and will lead to better thinking.

And whatever their age, smart CEO’s will continue to experiment with new business models that allow them to access & partner with complimentary perspectives & skills, e.g. big businesses and start ups working in shared office space. They will combine experience with freshness.

Peter Soer
Peter Soer
Peter combines experience as a coach, marketing leader & someone who has faced the fear of being found out. He harnesses this experience with his natural optimism & determination, to help people thrive in their work and enjoy the life they want. To achieve our dreams, we have 2 resources, time and energy – so use them well.

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