Today’s constantly changing business environment makes it impossible to lead a company completely by yourself. Keeping a company on track during times of change requires all employees to develop leadership skills. If you find that, early in your career, you have leveraged your leadership skills and performance into a management position, you will probably be working with people older than you. Standing out as a leader among highly experienced elders around you can be challenging.
Here are some trends that are important for understanding the changing work environment:
A large majority of baby boomers intend to continue working into retirement, at least part time. Many will be returning to the workforce for second careers. Additionally, many technically savvy younger workers are moving into well-paid senior positions earlier in their careers. In fact, nearly 12 percent of younger workers (ages 20 to 34) are already managers, according to the US Department of Labor.
Work environments have changed to include work teams from all age groups and job groups, increased reliance on all employees to be leaders, diversity initiatives, and customer orientation.
Some companies are hiring more for attitude and less for experience. The current belief is that if people have the right attitudes, they can be taught the skills necessary to do the job effectively. This business environment, where people of all ages are assuming leadership positions, isn’t going away.
How Can Younger Workers Demonstrate Leadership?
To show your leadership savvy around more experienced workers, it is critical to realize that older workers sometimes view younger colleagues through jaded eyes. Many older workers believe that with age comes experience and ability. Don’t hold that attitude against them. When baby boomers were in the situations in which rising generations now find themselves, they typically had to wait and develop experience before they moved ahead.
You will gain points with older workers simply by talking with them. Get to know them and, obviously, avoid making derogatory remarks about their age group. Ask for advice, and listen carefully. Act maturely and respectfully around your elders, even when their attitudes make you crazy.
At the same time, don’t be passive and deferential with senior workers. Show your assertiveness, and they will respect you. Learn as much as you can and become an expert on your project or department. When you show your competence, you will gain instant respect, no matter how old you are.
Show your creativity and demonstrate how it helps the company. Problem-solving was not an appreciated skill in the workplace until recently so, many older workers never developed that particular creative muscle. Solve a problem creatively, and you will impress everyone.
Above all else, be customer-focused. The bottom line still drives business today, and companies know that a customer-centric orientation improves the bottom line. No matter their age, customer-focused employees earn the respect of colleagues and almost always do well in their careers.