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Can young people be leaders?

The leaders or directors of organisations are often older people. But some people say that young people can also be leaders. Do you agree or disagree?

On the whole organisations prefer to employ older people in positions of authority, believing that maturity brings greater knowledge and level-headedness. Furthermore, wider life experience and some time spent rising through the ranks provides a deeper understanding of a field. Yet it is unquestionably true that young people can also be effective leaders.

A look at one of the world’s most successful sectors – technology – shows how it is youth, not age, that is driving this particular industry. Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page and Sergei Brin were all in their 20s when they made their marks, and their companies continue to dominate cyberspace. Indeed, age could be seen as a disadvantage in the hi-tech world: out-of-touch and outside the core demographic, older heads are used more for stability rather than inspirational leadership.

Political activists, revolutionaries and even heads of state can also be young. At 17 Malala Yousafzai won the Nobel Peace Prize for campaigning for educational and women’s rights in Pakistan. Student leaders in Hong Kong such as Joshua Wong, only 18, have been prominent in the news. Joan of Arc led an entire army at the age of 17, and Alexander the Great an entire empire from the age of 20 until his death at 33. Simon Bolivar was barely in his 30s when he became a leader in the liberation of many South American countries.

Some may label these cases exceptions rather than the norm, and it is worth noting that youthful leadership tends to be most successful when pioneering or inspirational change is required. Indeed, this reputation often dissuades established companies and organisations – who are actively avoiding change in order to maintain the status quo – from trusting the ‘impetuousness of youth’. Yet whilst many CEOs are in their 50s or 60s, to state that young people cannot be leaders is an erroneous position: industries, armies, nations and empires have all changed behind the motivations of the young.

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