During my first few years working as an employee, I’ve heard a lot of talks flying here and there about why should age matter when it comes to promotions and manager positions.

Many came from young blood, all geared up to show the world what they were made of. To show just how much more skilled and capable they were compared to the older generation who were at that time holding higher positions.

At one point in time, I was there. I’ve been there and done that. I’ve complained about my supervisors and I felt overlooked; not given a chance to prove my worth.

The reality of maturity.

Years down the line, I would come to fully understand that age mattered. Age being ‘maturity’.

The reality of maturity and why employers deem it important for leadership potentials, as oppose to just hard skills, is the fact that there are no books, no theory, no how-tos that you could simply read up on and make use of. It’s not like learning how to use WordPress, or how to submit your VAT.

The reality of maturity is that it comes with actual experience. The more you do. The more you learn, the more you understand how things are connected and the bigger picture of things. How your actions impact others and how others’ actions impact you, and what to do to mitigate and navigate yourself and those under your care through this jungle.

Most importantly, it’s about being able to see how your decisions and actions today will impact the future you.

The marks of maturity.

I’ve listed here a few from my own observation and experience, combined with what psychology defines as the mature person.

1 – The ability to delay gratification.

This one is easy to understand if you define it exactly for what it is.

Imagine a mom tending to a demanding child. She’s hungry, she’s tired, she wants to watch the next season on Netflix, but she can’t do any of that until her child is asleep.

Two outcomes might happen here. One, she herself experiences a meltdown, gets angry, trashes things around and blames her child for her inability to enjoy herself. Two, she pulls through no matter how hungry she is and how the TV seems to beckon to her. Between these two, which would you think is the make of a mature person?

The first shows the inability to commit over extended time, to delay self gratification. The second shows higher ability to commit over time and delay own wants and needs.

So why did I previously mentioned that, maturity comes from actual experience as oppose to being able to learn about it from books? Well, for the mother that may have failed to temper herself, her meltdown would trigger a set of unwanted consequences such as her child retaliating, making it worst. Over time, she may learn that delaying gratification is the better way to handle herself.

Now apply this to a work-setting and you can easily identify who is mature enough and ready for leadership and who is not.

2 – Giving little value to personal praises and criticisms.

Most children are motivated by praises and has the tendency to avoid criticisms. This is what drives us as humans to grow during our early years.

There is a tipping point however, that is a strong indicator of maturity. Which is, at some point you’re going to be the one to be giving praises and constructive criticisms as oppose to the ones receiving it, to your younglings, whether its your children, juniors or subordinates at work.

The ability to place little value to praises, means you become more focused on others and how you want to give them feedback. If you’re forever chasing after that next praise, looking for ways to avoid that next criticism, there is no way you can consciously be taking care of others.

This works in parallel with the real meaning of humility. It’s about putting yourself after others. Maturity is never driven by the need for attention.

In a work setting, this is another clear sign of maturity, and readiness for authority.

3 – Ability to make decisions based on values, not feelings and emotions.

Let’s use a short story to convey this one.

Luke is a dad of 2 who’s been preparing for an interview. He enters the interviewing manager’s room, inside sits 2 people. One is the CEO and the other a VP of some department. Both very young, perhaps younger than Luke.

As Luke was answering his interview questions, the younger VP just ignored him, playing on his phone and smiling at some messages going back and forth. At that point, Luke stopped talking to wait for the VP to look up. After a while, the VP noticed the room had gone quiet and did look up.

Luke explained, to please give him the attention to showcase his past experience. Instead of realising that Luke was politely asking for a genuine chance for evaluation, the VP got angry. He took it personally and mentioned that at Luke’s age, he would never get hired anyways.

The sad part of this story isn’t about Luke, who then went on to work elsewhere.

A few times he met people in the same industry, some were high ranking officials, who considered working with the said VP’s company, and every time Luke suggested to better not get in touch. Was it out of revenge? No. Luke’s not a young man, neither are any of his contacts. And the VP made it clear that he does not work with old people. In Luke’s reality, he felt he was merely doing his older contacts a favour by saving them from the embarrassment he had to go through.

The result really is about lost of opportunity. When you’re driven by feelings and emotions, you rarely end up thinking straight. Maturity is when you become fully capable of making decisions and carring yourself based on your inner values.

The question of age vs maturity.

So then, can maturity only be realised by age? Yes and no (my opinion again). I would think while there is a general correlation between maturity and age, it really comes down to life experience.

The more you do, the more you experience, the more achievements and mistakes you make, the more you mature.

Some people just go through life much faster, maturing at a relatively young age. While there might be others who mature at a much slower pace. And both is alright. There’s nothing wrong with maturing sooner or later.

The point of this article is more about, identifying maturity in the workplace. To see if someone is ready to harness power and authority. Handed to someone who might not be ready today (they might be in the future), may hurt those around them and the person themselves. It’s never been an easy choice.