I caught this interview (sorry, the video is only available to HDNet subscribers) done by Dan Rather with a young CEO named Barry Silbert. Silbert, a former Goldman Sachs employee, is thirty-four but looks even younger. A lot younger. His company, Second Market, aims to create a marketplace for illiquid assets—a new kind of eBay-like domain where people can trade things like shares of Facebook or LinkedIn, or other non-traditional assets.
What struck me, in addition to the novelty of Silbert’s idea, was whether we prefer our leaders young or old, green or seasoned? Conventional wisdom suggests that a young leader brings innovation and energy, new ideas to replace outmoded ones. On the other hand, the veteran leader brings the kind of knowledge an organization needs, the kind only obtained through years of experience.
By now, you might have read Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point, which often points to the scholar K. Anders Ericsson’s notion that one needs ten years, or 10,000 hours, to be an expert at something.
Which do we want and why? We saw this debate crystallized during our most recent presidential election, but what about when it comes to business? Perhaps another question is whether these perceptions (young=innovative, old=wise) are even valid.