Kristine Perez | Staff Writer
There has always been a question as to who makes a good leader. If we travel back in history we can clearly see the trends of who were acceptable leaders: from religious appointees to strictly men. Although this has changed for the better with people from various backgrounds, cultures, genders, and ethnicities taking leadership roles, there is still debate today about one factor – age.
While it is simple enough to say age is nothing but a number, many people are finding it difficult to recognize that they are old enough to be their bosses’ parent. The main cause of this current fiasco in industries and companies around the country is the growing amount of workers remaining in the labor force past what used to be the normal age for retirement. According to recent studies, the number of workers over the age of 55 has increased from 29% in 1993 to 41% in 2012. Less and less people are working towards the American Dream of working until 55 and comfortably retiring. Rather, the new plan is to work for as long as possible; consequently, this new state of mind is causing uneasiness between the 55-year-old employee and the 25-year-old CEO.
In the end, age should not matter in regards to holding a leadership position. Simply because a company wants a fresh face does not insinuate they are going to hire someone who is incompetent in satisfying the job’s requirements. A natural born leader who is capable of what the job asks for will do well in a high position whether at 25 or 45. Experience does not necessarily transmit to good leadership skills and there is no need to keep a worker from a leadership position merely because of their age.
A young leader can and should be defined in many other terms that are not the word “young”. Unfortunately, though, there are negative connotations with being the young one in a job setting – there are the assumptions of being handed the job by an acquaintance and not knowing how to get anything done. There is no basis behind these conjectures; some people find the need to say something unreasonable when they are uncomfortable. There is no need to distinguish a person’s age simply because it makes others uneasy.
As for young bosses, learning how to work with coworkers who are instilled with these beliefs only makes them become a better boss in the end. Take Elizabeth Risco, for instance, a 26-year-old Miami native who has worked hard and earned her spot as a supervisor in the company she works for. When asked what she believes it means to be the young boss, Elizabeth recounted to me, “As a new young boss, it means a lot of things…It means I have to work twice as hard and show no weaknesses. I think as long as you have the right mentality and know what you want to work towards, the number of how many years you have been alive should not matter.” Although she is the boss, Elizabeth must work harder to portray her abilities while proving she is appreciative of the older employees as well. “As long as I keep working hard and working with dignity, I cannot fail. Team work is a very important thing to enforce, I am nothing without my team.”
Whether the workers like it or not, Generation Y is making its way into the labor force and are landing the top-notch leadership roles. It should come as no surprise that businesses want leaders who are young, open to change, and up to date with trends and technology. With every passing generation comes a moment in time where companies want a fresh face. The Baby Boomers and Generation X should not spend too much of their time on these woes because it will only be about 25 years until Generation Y has the same wake up call from the subsequent group of new aged 25-year-olds. Veterans in a company cannot remain at the top forever and companies eventually realize that having young leaders is always the new black.