One of the things I have noticed about older leaders is that there will come a day when the majority of the people they report to or work with are younger than them. It is inevitable. Depending on your field that day may come sooner-but sooner or later it will come. How will you respond? Will you be unable to submit to someone else’s authority that is younger and less experienced than you? Will you only relate to that person as your junior and constantly, but subtly, talk down to them? Will you determine to be right because of your vast experience and forfeit your platform for learning?
I have said before that a leader’s longevity will depend on their humility. One strong expression of that is your ability to treat younger, less experienced bosses and co-workers as equals. See them as a source of fresh input and learning-not just as someone to mentor.
Someone that modeled this for me was John Donaldson. John was a man 30 years my elder that I met when I was just starting out in the ministry. He was a leader in a key church whose sponsorship I needed. Yet he never treated me as a novice-which I certainly was. He constantly asked me questions-not probing ones waiting for an opportunity to spout experiential wisdom-but genuine questions that demonstrated true curiosity and a hunger for learning. He went out of his way to introduce me to other leaders. He created platforms for me so that I could communicate my vision and ministry. I wish I would have had more foresight back then to drain him for all that he knew about life and ministry-it would have been a wealth of knowledge. But I was too young to know the treasure I had in front of me. John treated me as fellow sojourner-a valuable “peer”. He gave me lift-not drag. He crossed a line-an age line-a good line that allowed him to be a humble example of leading along side-not just from above or from a sense of codified experience that could not be questioned.
I hope I can be that for someone too. May we learn to “cross the line” graciously and willingly. It will sustain your leadership life.