At what age do entrepreneurs make the best bosses? Is it, say, before they turn 35--or do improved leadership skills come later in life? Then again, perhaps age doesn't make much of a difference. Or does it?
Richard Hagberg thinks it does. As head of Foster City, California-based executive development firm Hagberg Consulting Group, Hagberg has studied some 550 CEOs (including entrepreneurs) for more than a decade. His conclusion? "The burden on young people of running [a business] is significant; leadership demands an incredible amount of skill and talent," Hagberg says. "And I think younger entrepreneurs justifiably feel a little overwhelmed by that."
Which isn't to suggest Hagberg's research overwhelmingly favors entrepreneurs over 35--but the passage of time does seem to strengthen leadership capabilities. "We find that [entrepreneurs] under 35 tend to be visionary evangelists," explains Hagberg. "They rely on their own charisma and willingness to take risks and make decisions fast. They're `ready, fire, aim.'?
In contrast, older entrepreneurs are often better at planning and team-building. "They've learned how to work with other people," Hagberg says. "They've learned how to build consensus and facilitate teamwork. They also tend to be more open-minded."
Interestingly, though, different stages of business development don't necessarily call for the same management skills--and this is where complex analysis becomes ever more so. "The under-35s are more effective in start-up years," Hagberg notes, "when selling people on an idea, acting quickly and [being willing] to take risks are important."
What other distinctions can be drawn between younger and older entrepreneurs? Hagberg credits the younger set with greater individual creativity; older leaders get higher marks for attention to detail. Entrepreneurs under 35 are also deemed less trusting of their employees' abilities to get the job done--at least, at a skill level commensurate with their own.
"When you're young, you're more brash," Hagberg concludes. "As you age, you often realize you can't accomplish things through sheer force of will."