Home Outreach Leaders Articles for Outreach & Missions Tips for Leading Older, and Often Wiser, People

Tips for Leading Older, and Often Wiser, People

Be clear on all your expectations.

More than likely a person from another generation is more accustomed to structure than you are. There were days past when expectations were more clearly defined and people knew what was expected. Organizational charts were more linear. Job titles meant more about what a person did on the team. Be aware of this. You don’t have to change your leadership to accommodate them necessarily, but you do need to recognize and understand when they may need a little more clarity on your expectations. They may wait until they know for sure you want them to move forward on a task or project.

Don’t play games—even if you are intimidated.

I have seen this many times. The leader is intimidated by the older team member, so he or she dances around an issue or fails to handle conflict. The leader might make excuses for not knowing something or pretend they have more experience than he or she actually has with an issue. They use passive aggression rather than address the real issue. People with life experience can usually see through that type of behavior. The age and maturity will make them less intimidated by you. Be kind. Be respectful always, but be direct. Shoot straight with them. Stand firm when needed. The fact is that the older team member will probably have handled worse situations. They will welcome your secure leadership—if it’s handled appropriately.

Be patient with them.

This is changing rapidly, but sometimes an older team member may not be as culturally, technologically or trend savvy as you are. (And, again, that’s changing rapidly.) They may need a different form of communication or you may need to explain something in a different context, but they will make up for it by adding to the team in other ways. Be prepared to allow extra training for them if needed—even in some things which appear basic for you.

There were many times in business where I would have never made it without someone helping me who had more experience than I had. That’s still true today. I continue to surround myself with mentors in life and church.

Granted, if the person is cranky, rigid or troublesome don’t add them to your team. But, that’s true of all ages.

Here’s the deal. When you shy away from someone for your team because they are older or more experienced than you then you ignore some of the most loyal, hard-working, dedicated team members. And, the humility in knowing you are leading people wiser than you will make you a better leader.

Do you lead people older than you? What would you add to this discussion?

This article originally appeared here.

For more great articles on leading volunteers, check out 25 Best Articles on Leading Volunteers (That Get Them to Stay and Thrive!)

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Ron Edmondson is a pastor and church leader passionate about planting churches, helping established churches thrive, and assisting pastors and those in ministry think through leadership, strategy and life. Ron has over 20 years business experience, mostly as a self-employed business owner, and he's been helping churches grow vocationally for over 10 years.