Resolving Tension Between Young and Old Leaders

“You’re challenge is giving control to young leaders.”  (Spoken to an old leader at lunch three years ago.)

He was a quiet gentleman. It was like I had reached across the table and punched him in the chest. He jerked back in his chair, even though I hadn’t physically touched him.

He still won’t let go.

dogs pulling on rope


Frustration and tension is the opportunity of cross-generational leadership. Pushing frustrations away is pushing the future away.

Resolving tension between old and young leaders is future building.

5 tips for young leaders:

  1. Focus as much on connecting with people as getting projects done.

  2. Explore the organizational and relational consequences of your attitudes and behaviors with older leaders.

  3. Define success in behavioral terms as much as results.

  4. Accept the concerns of older leaders. They think you’re arrogant and short-sighted. Ask, “What am I doing that makes you think I’m arrogant?”
    Barriers consist of ignored concerns.

  5. Some progress is better than no progress. Go slow with people. Be quick with results.

10 tips for old leaders:

  1. The arrogance you see in them is in you, too.

  2. Learn to adapt to others like you want others to adapt to you.

  3. Build your legacy by developing young leaders. Push away – limit impact.

  4. Focus on who before how. Develop character before skill. Ask, “Who do you want to be?”

  5. Fuel and focus the dissatisfaction of young leaders. The frustration of young leaders tells you who they are and where they want to go.

  6. Develop positive expressions of dissatisfaction.

  7. Explore shared values. Values drive behavior and build strong connections. Keep asking, “What’s important to you?”

  8. Say, “Tell me more,” when young leaders frustrate you.

  9. Leverage the risk-taker inside young leaders.

  10. “Be slow to correct and quick to commend.” John Wooden

What is your advice for resolving tensions between young and old leaders?