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Senior Correspondent

Wouldn’t it be great if old-timers loved the new kids on the block? As is often the case, however, established leaders don’t respect inexperienced whippersnappers. In addition, new kids are a nuisance; they question, challenge and disrupt. 

Young leaders long to stand out, but those who lock horns with old leaders lose. 


Fitting in, over the long-haul, is career suicide. Adapting and aligning is a short-term strategy for creating long-term success. 

Build strong connections of trust that establish platforms where everyone stands out. 

Be a learn-it-all, not a know-it-all. 

The problem with new leaders? The young ones haven’t experienced what their elders have. Learn about the past. Ask about previous successes, failures, struggles and breakthroughs. Listen for points of pride, dissatisfaction and repeated stories. 

Four Secrets for Connecting With Older Leaders

1. Honor everything honorable about their past, over and over.
2. Ask yourself what drives them. Repeated stories reveal deep values.
3. Align your language with their values. For example, when their stories celebrate the creation of new customers, frame new initiatives in “new customer” language.
4. Listen to their battle stories and take on their enemies — not personal enemies, but challenges they faced. Get in the trenches with them.

You connect best when you …

1. Celebrate what others celebrate.
2. Hate what others hate.
3. Love what others love.
4. Mourn what others mourn.

To stay, or to go …

1. What’s the likelihood you’ll have exponential impact in this context?
2. Will you enhance your skills?
3. What opportunities are on the horizon?
4. Will you learn from older leaders’ experiences?

When the needle tips to yes, stay. When the needle tips to no, work hard, but seek new opportunities.

How can new, young leaders connect with established, older leaders?

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