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Delegation and Youth

22 May 2013

  • youth

In 1960 a young migrant couple from Europe were married in Sydney. In these times it was customary to ask a man who you looked up to and who you thought could lead and support you in times of need to be your Best Man. A Best Man was not your closest buddy who knew how best to ensure you were hammered on your bucks night and could articulate the worst of you in a wedding speech.


At this wedding more than fifty years ago the young couple were only slightly older than a school leaver and were both already working hard for a living, she in a bank as a secretary and he as a chef. The Best Man stood up to make his speech and he offered the couple the best wedding gift he could think of.  He said to them,


“I have bought you a gift, a material possession of crystal and gold to commemorate this day. It is worthless in comparison with the best gift I can give you and this gift is my advice… If you want to be successful beyond your wildest dreams, learn how to be effective at delegating.”


This sounds like incredibly good advice, I agree, except there’s a fundamental problem.  Delegation being led by youth is so often a troubling web of misunderstandings.


Painting the picture, you’re a smart, intelligent 21 year old new to the workforce and you want to be successful. Taking on the advice of this Best Man you show your skills by delegating and taking a leading role with your colleagues who range in age from 1 month to 30 years older than you. What happens?! You are considered a troublesome, self righteous upstart who should not be delegating to people older than you, on the basis that they are well, older than you. Your colleagues hate you and you become frustrated so you leave your job and vow to never stick your neck out again. Starting your next job, you instead decide the pathway to leadership success is to be prepared to do everything and never again delegate a task that you are capable of doing yourself, soon enough you find yourself leaving work late, becoming increasingly isolated and the theme in your workplace sees most people lurching from one crisis to another.


Fifty years ago and today, if a young staff member in an organisation attempts to lead and delegate there is a very good chance this will not go down well and will upset the status quo of those who believe that age determines leadership and seniority. Human nature shows that it’s insane to repeat a behaviour or approach and expect a different result, so many a young and very capable leader sees him or herself as much less than the person he or she really is and complies with a working life of eggshells and stunted potential. On the other hand these leaders can also take the approach of being super achievers and burning themselves out with overwork and a lack of life balance that their boss relishes until they are literally spat out because they have become so bitter with not being recognised and rewarded that the management of their organisation sees their irrepressible sarcastic outbursts as a sign of their poor attitude not the repression the organisation has delivered. I have spoken to many leaders who in employment found their choice was either sit under the radar of showing who they really are or effort beyond what is humanly possible to earn stripes that are never awarded. What lies beneath this is leadership in the form of being great at delegating, mistimed in youth and the injury was so harsh the patient never recovered.


The answer for a sensible, smart, hard working young leader is to combine free enterprise with employment, until incomes are realised enabling the young leader to “retire” from employment and forge ahead in their own business. Be careful savvy entrepreneurial types to avoid a job trap based on age equals autonomy. This issue can be a career wrecker. Instead look for measured and well tested ways to use your skills and parallel paid employment with a move into free enterprise where the scope for you to grow and earn is limitless.


Madelaine Cohen Author

Lipstick Learning is an initiative of Sydney based business leader & entrepreneur Madelaine Cohen. Sharing information and joining forces with people who choose to lead. Madelaine has more than two decades of inspiration from her businesses in consumer products, sports marketing and healthcare.  She takes a leading role in helping people transition from employment or trading time for income to their own business in the health, beauty and anti-aging sectors.  Madelaine works with business models including a 10 x 10 process and 10:6:4:1 ratio strategy for generating profit of $100K or more per annum in your own business.  Why? Inspire people to lead in free enterprise & together we can create lifetimes of health and happiness.