Too young to lead?

  • Does the lack of a revert say something about the underlying implicit bias?
  • Could similar ideas, from a more ‘experienced person’ (perhaps male) would have elicited a reaction?
  1. Acquire depth of knowledge and relevant challenging experience early: Remember, it can only be termed as a ‘bias’ if, as a young person, you have the willingness, knowledge, and understanding of the role/project and are still not considered for it. So keep learning, innovate, and focus on adding value/contribution to larger goals.
  2. Balance assertiveness with respect & humility — When we step into the shoes of someone who has assiduously worked to achieve leadership success, it isn’t unnatural for them to have discomfort with relatively lesser experience. We do have a lot to learn from their experience, which is possible only if we respect them and are open to learning. Having said that, one’s own belief in self and assertiveness in articulating messages is imperative to move forward. Assertiveness without respect & humility may come across as arrogance. Respect & humility without assertiveness could make one appear diffident.
  3. Careful: Your own self-image or internalized prejudice could come in the way: An internalized bias is when a person believes that the stereotypes that exist are true about themselves. In her book Invisible Women, Caroline Perez has identified multiple situations where women hold the same biases about themselves and other women as men do. This could possibly be true for age and experience too, especially given that women seem to experience the age bias more commonly.
  4. Discuss the ‘elephant in the room’: The elephant in the room being that the individual you are interacting with is probably thinking “he or she is too young.” While the right action and performance matters, sometimes, it may be useful to speak about how you are young but have the capability and confidence. This is something I’ve begun to do in my recent conversations. It helps on two levels — first, to let go of inhibitions or ‘nervousness’ about being ‘young’ ; second — it indicates authenticity. Authenticity combined with expertise and the right attitude help build trust…and building trust is key to being able to succeed in situations where you may not meet the ‘minimum experience requirement.’

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