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"Respect has nothing to do with how long you've been on this Earth... but you're probably too young to understand that."
Nudge the Pirate referring to Tetra, The Wind Waker

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 C.E.O.. If a young leader (royal or otherwise) has established or expanded an empire, that’s a Young Conqueror.

Related to Improbable Age and Ensign Newbie.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • The Pope (His Holiness Alessandro XVIII, 399th Pope) in Trinity Blood, pictured above. He's a 13 year old when he appears.
  • Berserk: Child Mage Schierke is only about 13 by the Chapter of Elf Island according to the Official Guide Book, and yet most of the time she's the de facto leader of the party because she is wise and powerful beyond her years. Sure, Guts is the Magnetic Hero who attracted them together in the first place, and whose quest they're all a part of. But Schierke is the one who actually knows the way to their destination of Elfhelm, coordinates everyone's combat through thought transference, and figures out a plan whenever they encounter some magical obstacle. Sometimes her youthful insecurity causes her to doubt herself, but when all's said and done her rational thinking and courage under pressure are what make her the rock whose stability everyone depends on.
  • Bleach:
    • 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.
  • In Delicious in Dungeon, human knight and team leader Laios is the youngest member of the party after their encounter with the Red Dragon ended with them losing his younger sister.
  • 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.
  • Loretta Cristiano is the head of the entire Cristiano family in Gangsta. at the age of 14, much to the shock of Alex, who initially assumes she's just a Mafia Princess. Loretta is a tough cookie on her own who not only packs heat and knows how to use it but also gets help from her two bodyguards..
  • In the Battle City arc of Yu-Gi-Oh! who does Seto Kaiba appoint comissioner of the tournament? His elementary school aged brother Mokuba. Slightly deconstructed in that we see Mokuba can have his emotions on a subject manipulated by other kids (during Joey's duel with Espa Roba, where he could have stopped the whole duel due to Espa's cheating but was talked into not doing so, merely stopping the cheating from continuing) and one time he tried to call out a competitor for wanting a second rare card after a win, his authority was not taken seriously until Seto showed up.
  • In K: Missing Kings, 12-year-old Anna Kushina becomes the new Red King and leader of the infamous urban gang HOMRA.
    • This applies to the 24-year-old Munakata, the Blue King, as well - even though he's an adult, he has power over just about everything in the government, and the Prime Minister resents him for this at his age.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Vento Aureo ends with the fifteen-year-old Giorno Giovanna as don of Passione.
  • Food Wars!: After the rebels win the Regiment de Cuisine against Central, Erina Nakiri becomes the new Dean of Tootsuki, at age 16 and while still midway through her first high school year. Somehow she manages to perform her duties smoothly while still continuing her own studies until she graduates, and then she becomes Dean full time.
  • Kaguya-sama: Love Is War has a minor example in Kozue "Makki-senhai" Makihara. She leads Shuchi'in Academy's Tabletop Games Club as its "Dictator For Life" despite being a freshman, presumably by beating the others in a board game. She was also previously called "senpai" before losing the "pai" in a penalty game.

    Fan Works 
  • Downplayed in Thieves Can Be Heroes!. Izuku is a first-year high school student, making him younger than his fellow phantom thieves, who are all second-year and third-year students with the exception of Morgana, whose age is unknown. At the same time, he holds a certain level of seniority over them as the first to manifest his Persona.

    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. And with good reason; the discussion over who's going to be running the show consists of Iron Man asking Cap to "call it", Cap laying out a flawless strategy to kill everything alien within a ten-mile radius with a maximum of efficiency and a minimum of casualties, and the rest of the previously-squabbling Avengers doing exactly as they are told without so much as a quibble.
  • The titular Chuck, from Amazing Grace and Chuck, is only 12-years-old but he starts and leads a global anti-nuclear weapon movement that begins with athletes going on strike in protest and eventually expands to include most of the other children in the world standing in solidarity with his vow of silence. By the end of the film, his movement has grown so influential that he's essentially able to veto a seven-year disarmament treaty between the USSR and the USA because its not good enough. He forces the two world leaders to go back and agree to total disarmament immediately.

  • 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 of groups in A Song of Ice and Fire get there by means of also being 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.
  • Ascendance of a Bookworm: At some point in the story, Myne ends up with a retinue of servants. Myne is seven years old, the youngest of the servants is eight, and three out of the five servants are are adults. Later on, Myne gets put in charge of an Orphanage, again with a few of the kids there being older than her.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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 Academy.
  • 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.
  • This happens a lot in the Disney Channel Live-Action Universe:
    • In Austin & Ally, Ally (15) is head of the mall merchants' association, with no explanation given as to why.
    • Logan in Shake it Up has the power to hire and fire employees at the kebab shop.
    • In season three of Kickin' It, Jack has been hired as an instructor at the karate dojo. (Both characters played by Leo Howard, coincidentally or not.)
  • 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.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • In season 6, Sansa and Jon petition Lady Lyanna Mormont of Bear Island, the unexpected heir of the holding. She's quite in charge, taking no crap from anyone... and she's also just ten years old. She has the wherewithal to accompany her pledged soldiers to the Stark camp, gives Ramsay Bolton a withering Death Glare when they parley before the battle, and when her side wins, she gives a room full of her fellow lords, all adult men, quite the dress-down for being fair-weather friends to their ancestral lieges, House Stark, and then becomes Jon Snow's kingmaker.
    • Due to being the highest-ranking person in Winterfell, Robb Stark has authority over a whole mess of experienced knights and retainers. Despite this, others underestimate him due to his youth. This dynamic is brought to the fore in "The Pointy End" when he calls his bannermen and begins to march south. In particular, it causes some tensions with Greatjon Umber but the Greatjon changes his mind when Grey Wind bites a few of his fingers off. Later, the Greatjon is the first in the Northern/Riverlands army to declare Robb as the King in the North.
    • Bran Stark commands the respect of virtually everyone under his rule, despite being a crippled ten year old. After Robb died, he could be considered the true King in the North.
    • When we see Cley Cerwyn, he seems barely out of his teens, but leading House Cerwyn.
  • Parodied in the Blackadder The Third episode "Dish and Dishonesty" where William Pitt The Younger is depicted as a teenager who's appointed the Prime Minister "right in the middle of exams."note 

    Video Games 
  • The high lama of Angri-La from Dragon Quest XI is a young boy. It was noted that many protested this choice initially but he has proven himself very capable.
  • Fallout 4 has one hard-coded example and an option for a second. The Brotherhood of Steel are led by "Elder" Arthur Maxson, who is a mere 20 years old. He seems to have ascended the hierarchy as a sort of return to form for the Brotherhood after the Eastern chapter's altruism and Western chapter's stubbornness saw the Brotherhood nearly annihilated. Maxson likely got the job because he is a direct descendant of the Brotherhood's founder, Roger Maxson.
    • If the player sides with the Institute, Father will attempt to install the player as his successor. The player's age isn't hardwired anywhere, but the story assumes the player character is biologically within a year or two of having had their first child. The other members of Institute leadership are all in at least their fifties. Though this is possibly a subversion, since the player character spent 210 years as a Human Popsicle and is technically older than any of them, including Father.
  • 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 Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn rolls around.
    • Sanaki is an even bigger example, she's only ten years old (thirteen in Radiant Dawn) and the Empress of Begnion, the largest country on the Tellius continent.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • The Secret World: The head of the Dragon Faction is the Golden Child, a ten year old with prophetic powers. He has led the organization for centuries, and each time he dies the organization finds his reincarnation and re-instate him.
  • 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.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines, due to its setting as a city where traditional vampire hierarchies aren't well-established, has a few examples:
    • Gary Golden is the Primogen of the Los Angeles Nosferatu, and became a vampire about 40 years ago. For reference, 40 years as a vampire is the average age of a starting Player Character in the tabletop game.
    • Gary's immediate superior LaCroix, the Prince of Los Angeles, is about 190 and is noted to be unusually young for a Prince.
    • Nines Rodriguez has barely 50 years under his belt as a vampire and is the 'leader' (or at least the public face) of the L.A. Anarchs. In his case it's justified, as Anarchs don't really care about seniority (or hierarchies at all). Nines is skilled, passionate and cool enough to make people want to join his cause and that's really all that it takes. It also helps that Anarch vampires traditionally do not live long due to being the weakest of the sects; making it to fifty when the Sabbat, the Kuei-Jin and the Camarilla all want you dead is downright impressive.
  • Yakuza: Like a Dragon: Downplayed trope, but to rise to Governor of Tokyo at age 42 the way Ryo Aoki did is quite a feat.

    Western Animation 
  • Master Cyclonis, the Evil Overlord and leader of the Talons, from Storm Hawks, who's only about the same age as the majority of the Storm Hawks (being in their teens). When she and Aerrow first meet, they're both surprised at how young the other is.
  • 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.

    Real Life 
  • 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 from 2006 to 2014, 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 (Biden's birthday occurred between the election and the start of his term).
  • William Pitt The Younger first became Prime Minister at 24.
  • Compared to the American and Russian Revolutions, the generation of The French Revolution is unique for the fact that it was run by late 20s-early-to-late-30s adults.
    • Louis XVI was 20 years old when he became King, 34 when the Revolution started and 38 when he died. Georges Danton and Camille Desmoullins were in their early 30s. Maximilien Robespierre was 36 when he died. Louis Antoine de Saint-Just was 25 when he made his political debut and 27 when he died.
    • Likewise, due to the dearth of senior officers (both because many of those promoted under Louis XVI had emigrated, and because the Republic's armies were massive compared to the previous royal army), many of the generals who fought the Revolutionary Wars were in their twenties. General Thiébault lampshades this in his Memoirs, saying that his own promotion to general at 30 was nothing exceptional at this time.
    • Napoléon Bonaparte was 26 and lacking experience as a commander-in-chief when he was put at the head of the Army of Italy.note  He became Emperor at the age of 33.
  • Muammar Gaddafi took control of Libya through a coup d'état in 1969 when he was around 27 (his birthdate is unclear).
  • 32-year old Kim Jong-Un took over as the dictator of North Korea after the death of his father in 2011, making Jong-Un the current world's youngest state leader
  • The 2011 Canadian federal election saw a huge number of ridings that had traditionally voted Liberal or Bloc change over to voting NDP (the so-called "Orange Crush"). It's fairly common practice to run younger, less experienced candidates in ridings where they're not expected to win, and apparently even the New Democrats themselves were a bit surprised by how many of their new MPs weren't even thirty when they took their seats.
  • In 2018, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was a 28-year-old bartender and waitress, just four years above the minimum age to run for Congress (she was 29 when she took office), when she scored a major upset victory in the Democratic Party primary against Joe Crowley, who represented New York's 14th Congressional District and was considered one of the leading figures in the party. The fact of her age, combined with her upset of Crowley and her reputation as a left-wing populist firebrand, made her one of the most high-profile figures in the Democratic Party even before the Foregone Conclusion that was the actual election (New York's 14th being stridently Democratic-leaning), and was immediately seen as the de facto leader of a group of four newly-elected left-wing Congresswomen known as "the Squad" even though she was the youngest of them by seven years.


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