Tips for Younger CEOs

Talent doesn’t have an age limit, especially in tech-based industries. Entrepreneurs in their early 20s have founded some of the world’s most disruptive businesses, and more CEOs are under 50 than ever, even among Fortune 500 firms. For younger CEOs, age presents its own set of challenges. These tips from experienced CEOs can help young CEOs soar without constraining them.

Trust Yourself

Virtually everyone, even CEOs and business owners with decades of expertise, suffers the occasional crisis of confidence. Younger executives are more prone to them only because they don’t yet have the internal library of professional experience from which to draw confidence. Even as a young CEO, though, you have a wealth of personal experience you can use to bolster your trust in your own judgment. You also have the advantage of others’ expectations; younger executives are expected to take calculated risks and dream big. Let your optimism buoy your investors as well as yourself when you’re coping with excessive doubt.

Assertive, not Aggressive

While no one in an executive position should be timid, going too far in the other direction can backfire, diminishing your authority and giving others the impression of insecurity. Assert your authority when necessary without engaging in frequent conflicts or ruthlessly putting down dissent. Take an active, positive role in creating consensus, and be willing to embrace political solutions. The alternative to political agreement, after all, is war – and no CEO wants that.

Delegate Intelligently

Top CEOs surround themselves with top talent. No one is uniformly strong in all areas, and assembling a team of people who have strengths you may not have developed fully will make your organization more resilient. Once you have your talent in place, don’t be reticent to lean on them; delegation is an essential skill for CEOs, and your team will be happy to take over the duties you assign to them. Once you’ve allocated some power to the people around you, resist the urge to micro-manage or course-correct. The point of delegating is to free yourself from having to handle it all. Trust in your talent, and they’ll repay it handsomely.

Know Your Market

Your CMO may be in charge of the specifics, but as CEO, you need a general understanding of your marketplace. For young executives in new start-ups, it’s sometimes tempting to draw up a portrait of your ideal customer before knowing who your company’s actual customers are. A chronic mismatch between message and audience can quickly sink a fledgling company, so pay close attention to marketing analytics. Sell to the market you have, not the market you believe you have.

Schedule Time for Yourself

When drawing up their schedules, young executives often cram their days with events. You’re passionate and energetic enough to keep up the pace, but you limit your capacity to dream big when you’re filling your calendar too full. Schedule time to look up from your desk and stay connected with the visionary capacity that led you to the executive office in the first place. A CEO who doesn’t have time to think ahead isn’t doing the organization any favors. Be more than a game manager and free yourself from a too-tight schedule.

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