Young and in Charge
"Respect has nothing to do with how long you've been on this Earth... but you're probably too young to understand that."So you have a group of people, all adults, and probably badasses. Who will you leave in charge of the bunch? Someone even bigger, more experienced, and tougher than they are, right? Not this time—the leader is a person younger than all the rest, maybe even a kid. This usually shows that the young leader is smarter than his or her adult lackies, or that some manner of higher authority (usually their powerful parents) has placed them in charge. In any case, this usually makes for an interesting character dynamic. Royalty fall under A Child Shall Lead Them, while corporate versions are the Grade School CEO. Related to Improbable Age and Ensign Newbie.
— Nudge the Pirate, The Wind Waker
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Anime and Manga
- The Pope in Trinity Blood, pictured above.
- Hitsugaya is the Captain of the Tenth Division. He's a Child Prodigy with a biological age of approximately 12-13 years. Although he behaves far more maturely than children of his years would normally behave, it masks the obvious weaknesses of his young age. Aizen isn't fooled and exploits both the lack of emotional maturity and experience he knows Hitsugaya is hiding. This provokes a loss of self-control that leads to the defeat of every single captain opposed to him.
- Yachiru is the Eleventh Division Lieutenant. Although second-in-command of over two hundred warriors, her biological age is approximately 7-8 years. She tends to play up her youth and childishness and has a genuine Sweet Tooth that gets Played for Laughs. However, she's lieutenant for a reason; her power is phenomenal and when she becomes serious, she becomes dangerous. Even then, while her maturity is greater than a child of her years, it's never adult.
- Code Geass has a 16 years old sub-Viceroy in season 1... A Viceroy as old as this in season 2... Someone who tells Zero he doesn't mind him being a student... Should we speak about empress of China? Or Emperor Lelouch? Empress Nunnally?
- Full Metal Panic! has sixteen year old Teletha "Tessa" Testarossa as the commanding officer of a high-tech submersible carrier. The given justification is by her being a Teen Genius and a "Whispered" besides. Most of the "Black Technology" that went into the submarine came from the recesses of her brain and are ill-understood by others, making her an essential human resource to its optimal function.
- Situations like this arise occasionally in Fullmetal Alchemist, where Edward Elric is a fifteen-year-old major; it becomes particularly noticeable when he interacts with Maria Ross and Denny Brosh, both of whom are adults and his underlings. Most of the series' adults take it in stride, though, since he's a Tyke Bomb and it's wartime.
Films — Live-Action
- After Cain captured, his protege Hob becomes the leader of his drug gang in RoboCop 2. Hob is a boy no older than 12.
- The Vietnamese drug dealer boss in Tropic Thunder is no older than 10.
- Master and Commander depicted very young midshipmen as naval officers (true to history).
- While all of The Avengers are adults, their leader is the youngest (not counting time served as Capsicle) member, Captain America.
- Happens a couple times in the Warrior Cats series. Scourge takes over the city cats when he's only a kit, simply because of his fighting skill and being the most bloodthirsty cat. In the first series, main character Fireheart is noted to be an extremely young leader; Bluestar made him deputy at a young age, and the warrior code states that deputy succeeds leader. If his training had taken the usual six-moons length, he would have been a warrior for only two moons at the age he became deputy.
- Animorphs got into this at the end of the series, when the group finally went to the Army for help. The adult soldiers still ended up deferring to Jake, who was the Animorphs' leader and had way more experience with the Yeerks than they did. He was only sixteen at the time.
- It happened even earlier when the kids finally revealed their double life to their parents and forced their whole families into hiding. The adults were kept informed and asked for advice, but the kids made it clear they would act independently.
- Most young leaders in A Song of Ice and Fire get there by means of A Child Shall Lead Them (any boy lord or boy king), or Young Conqueror (Daenerys Targaryen, along with a few in the history books). One of the only exceptions is Jon Snow, Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, who is voted to his position. His friend tells him that he's not the youngest (who was ten when voted in), but he's up there.
- A subtle case in the first act of A Clockwork Orange, where fifteen-year-old sociopath Alex is the youngest of his gang, and also their ruthless leader; this probably has something to do with the fact that he can single-handedly beat them all. Of course, his affinity for Kicking The Dog get him betrayed in the long run.
- Gifted young children in Ender’s Game undergo Training from Hell to become lead officers in the fleet. The protagonist Ender was age 9 when he became Commander of the entire fleet.
Live Action TV
- Doogie Howser, M.D. to his staff.
- One episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation was about Wesley, 15 year old Acting Ensign, being given his first command position as leader of an away mission. Everyone else on the team were actual ensigns, much older than he and have already graduated from Starfleet.
- Merlin has got into this since Uther's death in season 4. Granted, Arthur is in his early 20s, but he's still younger than all of his knights and advisors and such.
- In Austin & Ally, Ally (15) is head of the mall merchants' association, with no explanation given as to why.
- In Season 2 of The 100, the Ark survivors are theoretically led by their Chancellor, but it's teenager Clarke who forges an alliance with the Grounder army that's surrounded them, making her the Ark's de facto leader when dealing with the Grounders.
- Tormod from Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance is the leader of the Laguz emancipation army despite being somewhere between 12-14 when it forms, and only 15-17 by the time the sequel roles around
- Tetra in The The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, a girl not much older than Link who leads a crew of pirates. It's explained that the adult pirates respect her for having taken on the captain's responsibilities at a very young age, following the death of her mother (their former captain).
- While the Great Fairies in the game all resemble grown women, their Queen takes on the form of a little girl, though Really 700 Years Old applies in this case.
- Ion in Tales of the Abyss was named Fon Master (the equivalent of the Pope) before he was even twelve. Things get even more extreme when it's revealed that Ion is actually a clone of the original Ion who died, making the current Ion mentally two years old.
- By the time of Final Fantasy XIII-2, Hope (whose age ranges from 24-27) has become this. Each time you see him even 400 years into the future he is the unquestioned Director of the Academy (and basically all of humanity by default).
- Major Ocelot in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, aside from already being the rank of major, is in charge of an entire unit named after him, and is a complete Magnificent Bastard with Improbable Aiming Skills... at age 20.
- Master Cyclonis, the Evil Overlord and leader of the Talons, from Storm Hawks. When she and Aerrow first meet, they're both surprised at how young the other is.
- Numbuh 362, or Rachel Mackenzie, from Codename: Kids Next Door through out most of the series carries out the title of Supreme Leader of the Kids Next Door, with every KND Operative serving under her.
- Nearly all of her inferiors are about the same age as she is, though.
- In The Simpsons episode "Bart the Murderer", Fat Tony attempts to invoke this trope during Bart's trial for the murder (actually, just the disappearance) of Principal Skinner. (Of course, it was Bart who was working for Tony.) The attempt backfires when Skinner himself comes into the courtroom and explains that he had simply gotten trapped under a pile of his old newspapers while cleaning out his garage.
- Alexander the Great was made a general at 18 and a king at 20. Though his authority was inherited, he very quickly proved his worth by proceeding to conquer the Persian Empire, one of the largest and most powerful nations in the world at the time. Imagine a college student steamrolling from northern Greece to India in an undefeated twelve-year campaign.
- Luke Ravenstahl, mayor of Pittsburgh since 2006, was first elected to the City Council in 2003 at the age of 23. Two years later he became President of the City Council, and when Mayor Bob O'Connor died in 2006, he became interim mayor. Ravenstahl won a special election the following year at age 26.
- Stevens T. Mason, the first Governor of Michigan, was elected in 1835 at the age of 24—too young to be elected to the federal Congress in Washington. As such, he was called "the Boy Governor", "The Young Hotspur", and "The Stripling", as well as other less-than-salutary nicknames when a border dispute with Ohio delayed Michigan's entry to the Union by a year.
- Joe Biden was elected to the Senate a few weeks before his 30th birthday; 30 is the minimum age to serve in the Senate.
- William Pitt The Younger first became Prime Minister at 24.
- Napoleon Bonaparte was 26 and lacking experience as a commander-in-chief when he was put at the head of the Army of Italy. The other generals, in particular André Masséna and Pierre Augereau who were more than ten years his seniors and already had a well-established reputation, did not appreciate being put under the orders of a "boy" like him, but they were soon forced to acknowledge that he was not half-bad himself.
- Muammar Gaddafi took control of Libya through a coup d'état in 1969 when he was around 27 (his birthdate is unclear).