Are Companies Still Looking for Young Leaders?

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, many of our clients eagerly sought candidates in their mid-thirties.  They wanted executives with high energy levels, excellent educational pedigrees and – most importantly – runway.  They wanted potential leaders who had a lot of room to grow and expand.

 

Today, in post-recessionary times, companies have broadened their focus.  Although they are still interested in “up and comers” now, more than ever, they are looking for leaders with the maturity, a proven track record and seasoning to be successful in their organization.  What does this mean?  Why have organizations shifted their focus?  I’ve summarized below my theories on this topic.

 

  • 50 is the new 40 and 40 is the new 30:  People are living longer and, as a result, working longer.  Most of us are taking better care of ourselves through diet, exercise and a focus on overall well-being.  We look and feel better, and it shows!

 

  • Mature is now “cool”:  Maturity or seasoning is now viewed as a good thing.  The more experience you have, the more you can share with others.  A seasoned leader is often less focused on climbing the corporate ladder and is motivated more by sharing knowledge and coaching others to be successful.  These workers don’t feel as much of an intense competitive nature with their peers, allowing them to relax, let others be successful and revel in their own accomplishments.

 

  • Lean Organizations:  Throughout the past decade, organizations have become leaner and, for better or worse, successful leaders have gained a great deal of depth and breadth of experience in managing multi-site teams within highly matrixed environments.  Companies increasingly need seasoned leaders to successfully manage and navigate through today’s complex organizational landscape.  Many of these senior positions are far too challenging for those with short resumes; such a role could set up a younger person for disappointing failure and frustration too early in his or her career.

 

If you are “seasoned” and plan to join the job hunt but are concerned about whether age will be a factor in your search, think again!  Your age actually may work in your favor as long as you have remained young at heart, possess a high energy level and love what you do.  In today’s leadership landscape, experience and passion trump a few gray hairs and a wrinkle or two.

Sally Stetson
Sally brings more than two decades of experience as an executive search consultant. She has worked across diverse industries including life sciences and pharmaceutical, healthcare systems, manufacturing, telecommunications, non-profit and professional services. The Philadelphia Business Journal named Sally as one of its "2006 Women of Distinction", and as one of SmartCEO Magazine's 2010 BRAVA! Women Business Achievement award winners.

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