An aspect of my career that I have reflected upon heavily is how I am perceived as a young leader. My work has put me in contact with almost every age demographic; from 18-year-old college freshmen to 90-year-old retired CEOs. Because of this, I have learned a few things about how to put my best foot forward to gain respect for what I am able to accomplish and deliver, as opposed to how old I am.
As a young leader you have something to prove, especially when leading individuals who are older. It can be a challenge to win a team over and show them you deserve to be in that position. Below are a few topics to think about as a young leader that I have taken away from my experiences.
- What would you want to see? Do a bit of self-reflection and think about what you would want to see in a great leader. Chances are others want to see the same things.
- Be Yourself! Don’t try to act differently around those who are older and have been around the block – it will show. Being genuine will go a long way.
- Ask for their opinions. As I said above, they have been around the block, so get their advice and make them feel like you value who and what they can contribute. Create a team environment!
- Never preach from on high! If you want to make a team, then be a member of that team. I have never seen a dictatorship work well in a work environment, so I don’t believe that is the way to go.
- Put in the hours. There is no slacking when it comes to being a leader. When people see you putting in the elbow grease to get a good job done, they will recognize and respect that.
- Show your value. Your resume is meaningless to someone who has been in the business for years. So, take your time to review and understand what is going on in the workplace, get the team involved in setting goals and show them the value you bring to the table. Be it fresh ideas or a new way of doing things, let them see why you got the job and get their commitment for positive change.
- Find your own style. Write down ideas, make lists, set calendar reminders. Do whatever it takes to keep the things you want to do as a leader in the forefront of your mind.
In addition to things you can do at work to improve your leadership skills at a young age, you can also go out into the community to get more experience. In almost every community in the US, there are opportunities for you to get out and head something up. If not, start one yourself! It could be a community service or philanthropic organization, a book club, alumni association, sports club, networking group, or whatever. Just get out there, join, learn what that organization does and volunteer for a leadership role. The more opportunities you have to lead, the more chances you have to try new things and learn from the experience. And, this can only benefit you in the workplace.
There are so many books on leadership, and everyone I have read is good. Rather than list them all, I will just tell you the last one I read – Give and Take by Adam Grant. This book has a real connection to this topic and it is a great read.
At the end of the day though, you ARE the leader. Someone hired YOU to get the job done. Each situation will be different and part of being a good leader is testing out your style and learning from your successes and failures. You will not find success at every turn, but it is how you learn and move forward that will truly define you as a leader.
Have something else to add? Please leave your thoughts below.