Part 3: The ideal manager – young and bursting with enthusiasm, or older and thus a little calmer?

Part 3: The ideal manager – young and bursting with enthusiasm, or older and thus a little calmer?

  • Posted by Gerhard Pramhas
  • On 20. July 2018


The last part of my trilogy is dedicated to what I find the most fascinating aspect: a manager’s age. Now this is the point at which opinions completely diverge. Does a manager have to be younger than 50, or depending on the branch even younger than 40, in order to thrive in a technology-based SME, or is it no problem at all if he’s older than 50, perhaps even over 60?
I should mention: to keep it simple, for the sake of this article I’m dividing my argument into two – those over 50 and those under 50. My evaluation refers to the point in time at which the role of manager is assumed.

For and against – persuasive arguments on both sides

Imagine the following situation: a mid-sized, technically oriented, family-owned company is looking for a new director. The founding family wants to withdraw from the operational management and take on a supervisory position. So the company hires a recruitment consultant and gives them unofficial instructions to automatically reject all applications aged over 50. Their reasoning seems logical: at this age, performance decreases considerably, and people are no longer quite so willing to take on the exertions of travelling. Besides, it’s assumed that candidates at this age are already thinking more about their pension than the task at hand. As promised, the recruiting consultant then proceeds to present a series of young candidates to the family. Yet despite fulfilling the age criterion, they are all turned down for the following reasons:

  • lack of management experience
  • high likelihood that the “young” executive will leave the company after 2-3 years, using the position as a reference for similar positions in larger enterprises
  • unstable family circumstances (recently divorced, small children, …)
  • inadequate experience in dealing with international customers

Several frustrating interviews later, the recruiting consultant decides to send the family the applicants who, according to the unofficial criteria, do not really come into question. Despite the higher age, this group includes people who

  • cannot yet afford to, or do not even want to, think about retiring yet due to the many years they have spent studying
  • have taken up activities on a self-employed basis over the last few years because they wanted to develop their entrepreneurial side But now, after years of being successfully independent, they want to go back to working for someone else
  • at age 50+, have a great deal more energy than a 40-year-old
  • want to pass on the knowledge they have acquired over the years to the next generation
  • achieve a much stronger connection with the employer than younger interviewees
  • have fun being innovative. They want to “give it another go”.

In the end, it’s an individual decision

So which side am I on? Neither. In my estimation, one should generally not set limits when it comes to age. A young, dynamic 40-year-old who decides to leave your company for a larger one after three years can be just as damaging as a 55-year-old who is no longer able to travel and does not want to visit customers abroad. From my point of view, ultimately it should always come down to the individual.

To conclude my trilogy, I would like to emphasize one more point: the question of the gender of the ideal manager is, in my point of view, not up for debate. For me it is entirely self-evident that there are both women and men who fulfil the requirements of SME management, and who are brilliantly equipped to take on this task.

I hope I was able to give you some food for thought with my assessment of the ideal manager. I am happy to further discuss this topic if you wish to get in touch via or +43 676 9560164. Please feel free to also use my contact form for this purpose.

P.S.: Here you will find Part 1 and Part 2 of my series on the ideal manager.