Leadership Challenge: Leading the More Experienced

Leadership challenge: You have been hired to lead a team older and more experienced than yourself. Some of them seem determined to break you. Some seem indifferent. Some seem to treat you like a kid.

A common challenge that young managers face is managing older employees. The problem usually presents itself in the form of egoistic defiance of authority. The same situation may arise when a new employee is promoted to a position of leadership over more experienced employees, irrespective of age differences.

The new manager would respond in one of three ways:

  • Let them be. Often letting the difficult team member do whatever they please to avoid confrontation seems like the easy way out. Even though this might seem to work in the beginning, existing problems and friction will escalate until someone quits.
  • Show them who’s boss. It is not unnatural for young managers to feel insecure or threatened by difficult team members. One way to fight it is by exercising authority even to the extent of exploiting it.
  • Lead the team. Despite the challenges a manager faces, good leadership has the power to win over the most difficult employees. It’s how you lead that makes a difference in the way your team follows.Leading older2

You can make this leadership transition smoother for both youself and your team.

Be competent. It’s not the same as being perfect but being a leader should demand the best out of you and your team. It doesn’t mean that you need to know everything but it sure means that you are not afraid to be a coach and a leader to the ones who know more than you do. Don’t hesitate to display your strengths.

Trust and respect your team. Get over your doubts- no one is trying to tear you apart. Partner with your team and respect them even when you have to be firm. Maximize your team’s expertise and years of experience. Delegate effectively without giving in to favoritism.

Be a coach. The reason you are the manager and your team member is not is because you are trusted to coach your team to bring change. Challenge routines when there are better alternatives and include your team in the process. People are more vested in the changes that they can contribute to.

Manage the relationship. It is your responsibility as the leader to take the first steps in managing your relationship with the team. Being proactive in managing any existing tension will help you emerge as the leader. Different members of your team will need to be managed differently and the sooner you figure that out, the easier your transition will be.

Keep your manager in the loop. Discuss your strategies and seek help when needed.

Remember that leadership is challenging. Even the best leaders are criticized for trivial reasons. Be persistent. You will figure it out.



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