Business Agony Aunt

Ask Ronke Lawal: How Do You Lead Co-Workers Way Older Than You?



Miss Y asks:
I just got a new job as a manager in small company. I was all excited about the new role and working with the team there until I discovered that all the people on my team are much older than I am. I have never been in this situation and I am a bit nervous about how to manage them, especially in a culture like Nigeria where people expect a lot of respect from younger ones. I will appreciate some tips on how to deal with this.


Ronke Lawal answers:
This is an issue that has stood the test of time; think of the Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamen who was only 8 or 9 when he became king  or the  Chinese Emperor Yizhu who succeeded the throne in 1850, at age 19!

In modern times Yahoo’s Chief Executive Melissa Meyer was only 35 when she took up her role and I become CEO of a chamber of commerce in London at the age of 28.

The crucial thing to remember in life and in leadership is that age does not precede strong leadership. You have to remain confident in who you are and what you can achieve in your role as manager of this company.

You were selected from what I can only assume must have been a high number of applicants but the owners of the organisations selected you. Why? Because they saw something in you that at the moment you cannot see clearly enough for yourself; and that is how great a leader you can be! Do not allow age to cloud your judgement or your ability. Your team will respect you if you respect them so by all means remain polite and dignified at all times but always remain firm, assertive and confident.

Find commonalities with your team, get to know them as individuals irrespective of age and listen to them. If you show that you are a strong manager who deserves respect and recognition your role will become less fraught with feelings of inadequacies.

Very soon your nerves will disappear.  If in doubt remember this:

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” ― Eleanor Roosevelt

For more tips on leadership and management visit:
The Wall Street Journal Online
We are The City
Zars Media

Got a question about your business or career? Welcome to our new Business & Career Agony Aunt Column, Ronke Lawal is here to advise you. Please send questions to

Featured image via Corbis


Company founder Ronke Lawal was born in Hackney, East London of Nigerian parentage. Having graduated with honours from Lancaster University and the University of Richmond Virginia (USA) with a degree in International Business (Economics), she started her own business in 2004. In 2011 Ronke Lawal was honoured to receive a Precious Award for Inspirational Leadership. In January 2010, Ronke became the Chief Executive of the Islington Chamber of Commerce where she remained until the end of 2012 and became a non-executive director of The Hoxton Apprentice in 2011. She joined the board of Trustees of Voluntary Action Islington in 2012 and is currently on The Employers Panel for the National Employment Savings Trust.  She is a passionate business woman running RSL Management Services and the Simone Williams fashion label.  Apart from her active and involved business interests, her varied passions outside the business world include food, travel, music, literature and most importantly living a life she loves.




    Afi Ofori

    April 4, 2013 at 10:24 pm

    Ronke your advice is spot on, I love the ER quote you gave as well. You are indeed a leader.


    nwachukwu Sandra

    April 15, 2013 at 10:37 pm

    Wat of if pple ie ur superiors c u as a threat to their job nd position Cos u are gud in wat u do,dedicated nd able to wrk wit less supervision. Wat can 1 do?

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