Recently I’ve seen some lists that give tips to younger leaders when working with older leaders. I appreciate these lists, and think that young leaders can learn a lot from them, but I think that they are only half of the equation.
Just as a young leader needs a primer for working with an older leader, I also believe that older leaders could use a few tips for working with young leaders, especially those in high school and college.
Because they are in a very formative time as far as their leadership is concerned, and maybe more importantly, in a very formative time as it pertains to how they will view older leaders – and I’ve met many young leaders who have a sour taste in their mouth about older leaders after having worked with them some. Deserved or not, this perception sticks around and colors attitudes and working conditions to the detriment of everyone and especially the Gospel.
I believe that these attitudes can be avoided with a little work from both parties and a clear and shared vision by young and older leaders alike.
So, when it comes to working with young leaders, remember these things:
Treat them as fellow workers in Christ – I’ve seen older leaders treat young leaders like kids; no respect, no attention, and no place at the table. Young leaders who are willing to show up and do the work deserve at the very least a chance.
Don’t Assume – Many older leaders that I’ve talked to will admit that they see young leaders as something like a pet: Energetic, hungry for attention, and always making messes. Unfortunately I’ve seen many young leaders look just that way, perpetuating those stereotypes. The point is, you can’t judge a book by it’s cover, and you should give young leaders the benefit of the doubt: They are there to further the kingdom. Don’t assume anything until you have actually worked with them.
Be Open – They may not have a lot of experience, but young people have a lot of fresh ideas and seemingly boundless energy. Don’t discredit one of their ideas because it’s something new or untried. Consider it on it’s merits, discuss it, and treat it as you would any other ideas the group generates.
Remember, They’re Learning – Young leaders will step in it, and if you remember right, so did you. Be compassionate and loving yet firm with young leaders who don’t hit expectations. You’re doing some other organization in the future a huge favor by pushing them.
Challenge Them – Don’t give young leaders work no one else wants just because they are young. Young leaders need to be challenged in order to grow and learn. Don’t bore them to death because you don’t think they’re ready; let them prove themselves.
Take One Under Your Wing – Think a young leader has some things to learn? Then teach Them. Become a mentor to a young leader and give them the benefits of your knowledge and wisdom.
I’m sure that we could stay here all day exchanging tips (and if you have one for either an older or younger leader, please feel free to leave it in the comments section) but in the end, we need to bring everyone to the table and get to work on the very important work of the Gospel.