Few months ago I was made the team leader of a development team comprising of 3 developers. The situation is such that all of them have more experience than me and are senior in age as well by 1 or 2 years.

I have been caught up in situations where they ask difficult questions regarding projects for which I have to constantly seek advice from my manager on how to answer their queries. Many times I have seen team morale being down as well due to pressure from management on meeting various project deadlines.

Also I am getting hints that two of them are applying elsewhere for which seems to be permanent posts with much higher pay than what I get currently.

My question in simple terms is how be a young and effective leader when you are expected to deal with members older than you? I know I cant stop them from leaving if they find better opportunities but how am I supposed to react or what should I say when such a situation arises?

Those who have been in above boat are most welcome to share your experiences, the do's and dont's.

Thanks in advance.

  • Couple of bits of detail that could be useful to add. 1) How did you become team leader? Hired into the company, or promoted from within that team / another team at the same company? 2) How much experience (if any) do you have as a dev team lead prior to this? – Carson63000 Feb 8 '14 at 22:22
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    1-2 years is nothing in age. – DJClayworth Feb 8 '14 at 22:35
  • you can learn to be effective. the question is can you stay young – amphibient Feb 9 '14 at 4:59
  • What you have is not an issue where you are younger than the people you lead but one where thy they don't view you as competent to lead them. Age is not an issue especially when the difference is so tiny. I had a boss who was quite literlly half my age and he is one of the people I have respected most in my career. You say you can't answer their difficult questions and you appear to have let management tie you to deadlines that they feel are not feasible, of course they don't respect you or think you should be in charge. – HLGEM Feb 10 '14 at 16:07

The simple answer is: By leading.

  • Be the membrane around your team: Team members get past you easily if they need anything, but outside influence has to go through you first, to end up in the team.
  • Set the pace, lead the way, but don't pull their weight: They are in your team, because they know their work - maybe longer than you do -, so don't tell them how to do things.
  • Guide: There's a debate whether to go left or right at a certain point? Get involved, and give your opinion. Back it with facts and don't just hop on somebody else's opinion, but also stay open. You might be overlooking something, and changing your opinion if you realize you were wrong is the mature thing to do.
  • Defend: No matter what discussions you have internally, be on your team's side when others are involved. This breeds loyalty which in turn may be the one thing keeping your team members from leaving for a better paid job.

Don't be concerned about them being older than you. First of, you're all grown-ups so even larger differences in age don't necessarily mean knowing better anymore.

They are in the team, because they are doing their work and they probably are very good at it. Their work, though, is not leading, but doing (creating, manufacturing, selling, ...).

Leading requires different skills, a different focus. It's not managing yet, but it's also not just doing anymore. That's why age is inconsequential when really leading a team.

  • This thread may have been closed but you should have the accepted answer! – Jared Burrows Sep 2 '14 at 18:34

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