By The Oyemaja Executives, a division of The Oyemaja Group
Lekki Phase 1
History has examples of leaders who have succeeded and failed at every age. This makes age a difficult determinant for competence in leadership. But, it’s only difficult, not unimportant. The most obvious proof is in the extreme. For instance, it would be dangerous to ask a 5-year old to run for office in Lagos state. He’s just a child. At the same time, a 95 year-old is better left alone with his pension. Also, behaviours, attitudes, mindsets, all change with age. A boy experiencing puberty might sell the entire Lekki Phase 1 to get a valentine’s note from his crush. We don’t want that boy running things now, do we? While a child is naive, a 50 year old man is probably stubborn and unyielding in his opinions. Both ages are a pain.
What is the safe age-range? It’s fair to peg the starting point at Voting Age (18 in most countries) and to draw the finish line at Retirement Age (65 in most countries). It might wobble a little below or above, respectively, but we don’t want to go too far. Why this range? It is presumed that such persons are capable of making knowledgeable or experienced decisions, and can be held accountable for them. Of course, wise men sometimes make d*mb decisions, and careless folks are found in every nation. Nevertheless, we take confidence in the hope that the wise outnumber the unwise.
Save for these, what really makes a good and responsible leader is competence. Can you get the job done? The best presidents are those with a proven track record of business and political excellence. This need not be by certification alone. As a matter of fact, companies are gradually moving away meaningless CVs to tests, credible portfolios and convincing demonstrations. Hard work, of course, must complement competence. A skilled but lazy workman would get fired faster than an average workaholic.
There’s passion. Ultimately, the most effective and successful leaders are those have the utmost desire to succeed regardless of their age brackets. Leadership is more passion-driven than age-driven. Frank Walter and Susan Scheibe stated that age doesn’t seem to impact a leader’s willingness to step up.
The African Problem
A lot of African societies still place immense value on age (and sadly, gender) differentiation. The young must bow to the old. A kid born by 10am on the 25th of April is older than the kid born by 10:30am of the same day. Twins are not equal; the first to emerge is entitled to more benefits than the unlucky second. This problem pervades work environments. Younger bosses are reluctant to hire applicants older than them. They are naturally used to calling such persons “Sir” outside the workplace. Addressing your 40-year old employee by his government name depicts you as lacking good manners. Should the boss start addressing the old man with “Sir”, abuse becomes almost inevitable. The lines between the office and the streets becomes faded quickly. Sooner or later, the phrase “I’m old enough to be your father” is gonna fly across desks. “Toxic” doesn’t get more toxic than that.
Age does seem to affect a leader’s openness to change. As leaders grow older, they become infected with the status-quo virus. “We’ve always done it this way” accounts for 70% of their responses to new opportunities and methods of doing business. They become less willing to make changes and are gradually uninterested in innovation.
Studies prove that older leaders are more likely to take a passive approach to their management role for example, assigning duties and becoming involved only in emergency/crisis situations.
Do you like cars? At 25, your brain works like a 2021 Bugatti engine. It’s new and stylish. Fashionable. Visionary. At 55, you become more of a 1980 vintage car. Old classic wine. You’ve been tested across decades. You cannot go wrong. You’re set in your ways. The Bugatti and the vintage are both good cars and they’ll take you to the destination alright. But, you want to own both. Bugatti for the speed, Vintage for the class. But they all have their pros and cons, just like young and old leaders. So, when hiring, appointing or electing persons for management positions, keep the following in mind.
Vintage (Old leaders)
Experience – Oldies are experienced and know their market/industry. They are able to predict the outcome of certain decisions as a result of the vast experience that has been accumulated over the years.
Assertiveness – An old genius is not easily swayed with trends and unexpected shifts in the market. A mature leader doesn’t embark on white elephant projects but only takes risk which would be fruitful.
Loyalty – for older generations, having stayed with a company for several years and moving up the executive ladders shows a sense of loyalty.
Complacency – It’s difficult to sell change to old. “If it is not broken, why fix it?”
Lack of Adaptive Mechanisms – Once the need for change is accepted, there can be difficulty in adapting to it. “Hard to teach old dogs new tricks.” In the business world, it is not just about teaching the senior leaders how to change, but how to go about adapting to every aspect of that change.
Innovation – a young executive oftentimes has innovative ideas. Thinking outside the box is common.
Trends – younger leaders are more aware of the latest trends. They discuss trends, possible reactions, and come up with new ideas and action plans.
Ambition – at times, younger professionals are too competitive and can undervalue employee experience and loyalty, overlooking years of experience by senior.
Hasty decisions – Where the younger leaders rush into decisions and planning, this may too risky or too costly for the company.
The Oyemaja Executives.