If one asks many of today’s leading players, tmany will have first reached senior positions in their late 20s. Many of the great entrepreneurs that have influenced society in the last twenty years – Bill Gates, Mark Zucherberg and Steve Jobs- also founded their companies very early on in their careers. Jobs was 21; Zuckerberg was 19. So why do we question the ability of the young to be able to lead?
By Chris Sheppardson, Managing Director, EP
There is little doubt the young can innovate as well as any age group as can be seen by not just the three examples above but also Richard Branson and many other successful entrepreneurs – but the corporate world does seem to doubt talent. Why?
Personally, I do find it a touch strange that my generation were given great opportunities in their careers and yet today there is a real cynicism about giving the young a free reign. Why? One former CEO, who was a CEOs, explained it to me on the following lines: “Business today is more sophisticated and complicated. There is greater risk and the businesses are larger so of course we need experience to run them”.
Another commented “The young are miles away from having the right attitude to be able to run business today and to handle the pressures that come along with the job. When I was 22, I was left to handle a strike with a Union. I just couldn’t allow that today. The risk would be too high”
It is a strange contradiction when history can recount hundreds of examples when young talent has been able to take on major leadership roles – roles that were often complex – and yet today there is a belief that business is a more risk averse, complicated, concerned landscape.
Is it really harder than the business landscape was in the 1970s when there were two recessions, the oil crisis, and the three day week? Is it harder than during the periods of real social unrest and divisions in the 1980s?
I am not convinced by the argument that life is more complicated. The young have long brought change and so they should. Gates, Jobs and Zucherberg make the argument well enough. William Pitt became prime Minister at the of 24. Alexander the Great was 20 when he became King and ruled most of the world by 30.
Or are we saying that young talent can be innovative and challenge but can’t run larger business?
As with all things, it is about balance – a balance between experience and youthful ambition and vision.
The challenge is to ensure that the cynicism that has developed about the young is broken down for it is neither fair nor right – and then we need to free up talent.
Hospitality is built off great people that like people and want to provide a great service. There is a lot of talk about there being a shortage of good people but talent is all around so the real question is whether it is being seen? Are we all becoming too narrow in what we are seeking?
Yes, of course, there will be many that do not possess the character for leadership. This has always been the case – but we do want to support those that do have the character. I would argue that we need to think bigger and more broadly. We need all be prepared to enthuse and support great talent. It is the role of the established to leave a legacy for the next generation and preferably stop the patronising of talent. Hospitality is not rocket science – it is about good people that care and will go the extra mile for others and yes possess talent.
It is all out there but we need to open our eyes to see good people.
So let’s be committed to finding new talent and giving it a voice.