Everyone knows a story about a young, ambitious entrepreneur or leader ready to change the world, or perhaps the first-time head coach, ready to take the reins and run with a program they can call all their own, like the late Pat Summit, for example.
Directly out of college, Summit was named the head coach of the University of Tennessee Lady Vols basketball team during a pivotal time for women’s collegiate basketball. “I wasn’t thinking, ‘I’m going to build a national powerhouse at Tennessee and be a trailblazer for women,’” Summit wrote in her autobiography, Sum it Up, “My aim that first season was just to survive.” With grit and determination, Summit is now regarded as one of the greatest coaches of all time.
As a young boss or leader, chances are you will encounter some level of pushback from senior employees. As you tackle your role in the organization, here are four recommendations that will ensure your success:
Take Advantage of Being Young
Don’t be afraid to show that pep in your step—look lively! Your energy is your biggest asset as a young leader. Have fun with the people around you and the work you are passionate about. Energy is contagious, and one of the simplest things you can pack to take with you daily. The inspirational philosopher Howard Thurman once said, “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” Determine your motivation that makes you feel alive, and instill that passion in others.
Understand Your Strengths and Weaknesses
As a young leader in your organization, you have clearly demonstrated that you have the qualities it takes to be a front-runner. A better asset than knowing what you can do? Know what your weaknesses are. It is important to be in touch with your weak points and be willing to learn. Why do athletic teams have more than just a head coach? The head coach can’t do everything, and they need advice too. Asking for advice or help doesn’t make you a bad leader; in fact, it makes you more appealing as a leader. Someone who is willing to admit they don’t know everything, and empower someone else to take on the task is
Find a Mentor
Anyone who is building their career can benefit from a mentor who is further along in his/her career to provide various perspectives, reflections and encouragement. Reach out to long-time employees of the organization and look for their insights. Older employees have the opportunity to learn new and refreshing perspectives that you bring to the table, and you have the mutual benefit of learning from the years of knowledge and expertise that they bring to the organization.
Embody the Leader You Want to Follow
Set the example and the standard that you want your team members to follow. In the Leadership Challenge, coauthors James Kouzes and Barry Posner write, “If you don’t believe in the messenger, you won’t believe in the message.” Simply put, if you want to be trusted and respected, you must also trust and respect your employees. Your actions should embody and reflect the values and expectations that you want your employees to reciprocate.
As a young leader, you will be faced with a plethora of challenges and opportunities. Lead by owning being young, knowing your strengths and weaknesses, surrounding yourself with people smarter than you, and being the leader you want to follow. Use your youth to your advantage in order to make the most out of your leadership.