elderly man and woman talking

The Rise of the ‘Modern Elder’

Being now of a ‘certain age’, I am more and more drawn to authors who celebrate the benefits of aging and the reminders of the wisdom that comes with experience (well hopefully). It is true to say that the getting of wisdom, is not necessarily a given. I remember in my coaching training years ago being told the story of the professor who responded to the comment made by a student that the university chancellor must be extremely experienced as he had been in post for for 30 years. “Not so” said the professor, “he has just had one year’s experience repeated 30 times”. So how do we mentor or coach aspiring leaders using the wisdom of aging?
I have recently finished ready Eric Schmidt’s book : “Trillion Dollar Coach,” in which he discusses the concept of a “Modern Elder”, someone who combines the wisdom and experience of an elder with the adaptability and curiosity of a younger person. Schmidt emphasizes the importance of these Modern Elders in the tech industry, where constant change and innovation are the norm. He believes that individuals who can bridge the generation gap and contribute their knowledge while staying open to new ideas and technology are invaluable assets to companies. Schmidt’s view on the Modern Elder underscores the significance of learning, unlearning, and relearning in the fast-paced world of technology and business.
Having worked with many startups and scale ups, I have often found that there is a lot to learn from those you mentor or coach and that we need to value our life’s experiences, and I decided to adopt the title of “Modern Elder” in my consultancy work going forward!
The role of a “Modern Elder” in mentoring and coaching:
  1. Wisdom and Experience: As Modern Elders we bring a wealth of experience and wisdom to the table. We are likely encountered a wide range of challenges and have learned from both successes and failures.
  2. Mentoring: Modern Elders can serve as mentors to younger employees and leaders in scaleups and startups. We can provide guidance, share insights, and offer advice on decision-making, leadership, and problem-solving. As a mentor we can help younger professionals avoid common pitfalls and accelerate their personal and professional growth.
  3. Cross-Generational Bridge: Modern Elders can bridge the generation gap in tech companies. They understand the historical context of the industry and its evolution, which is essential for younger employees to appreciate. We can also help younger generations adapt to changing technologies and market dynamics.
  4. Adaptability: Despite our years of experience, Modern Elders are not stuck in the past! We still have the ability to adapt to new technologies, trends, and business models. This adaptability is crucial in the tech industry and founders, which is characterised by rapid change. We can guide companies in embracing innovation while not losing sight of the fundamentals.
  5. Coaching Leadership: Modern Elders can play a key role in coaching and developing leadership within tech companies. We help leaders refine their skills, navigate complex organisational challenges, and foster a culture of continuous learning and improvement – after all, we are embodying ‘life-long learning’
  6. Conflict Resolution: Modern Elders are often skilled in conflict resolution and can mediate disputes within the organization. We can help create a harmonious work environment and prevent misunderstandings from escalating.
  7. Legacy and Succession Planning: Modern Elders can assist with legacy planning, helping tech companies ensure a smooth transition of leadership and a sustainable future. We can identify potential successors and provide guidance on grooming the next generation of leaders.
How many readers would see themselves as ‘Modern Elders’? Do you feel comfortable celebrating the wisdom in aging?
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