Age and experience aren’t the defining factors when it comes to leadership. Knowledge and capability are far more important. There are people in their fifties with thirty years of experience under their belts who are great at their jobs but don’t have any leadership qualities at all. There are also people with only two or three years of experience who are blessed with the qualities that made them ideal for leadership roles. Given the right circumstances, a young leader can be every bit as effective as someone twice their age, but creating those circumstances isn’t easy.
The biggest problem that any young professional is likely to face when appointed to a leadership role is being taken seriously. People will write them off because of their inexperience, and they’re also likely to find themselves subjected to resentment from people who feel that they’ve stepped on their toes or “taken their spot” in the chain of command. These problems can be overcome if you know how to go about it – and once you’ve finished reading this article, you will!
Find A Mentor
Everyone finding their feet in a management role needs a mentor. There’s a very long list of reasons why this is so important, but most of them boil down to one thing:- there are things you’re going to come up against that you’ve never come up against before, and you need the advice and counsel of someone who has. Your own boss is a good candidate for such a position, but that isn’t possible if there’s nobody above you. In that case, you should look outside of your business to find one. This might be someone you used to work for or someone you look up to within your industry. Good leaders are happy to share their advice and experience, and in most cases, they’re flattered to be asked. Bounce decisions and ideas off them, and sit under their learning tree regularly.
Don’t shy away from big decisions. The easiest way to show everyone how capable you are is to take brave actions and demonstrate that you can achieve results. This will involve taking risks, and so the key is understanding which risks to take. Let’s use a metaphor from online slots websites. If the risk you’re considering taking has comparable odds to an online slots game like Great Rhino (we’ll use that one as an example because the rhino is a mighty animal of the kind you hope to become), you need to back away from it. The risks are too high, and the outcome is too unknowable. There are other games at online slots websites, like roulette and poker. If you know the cards in your hand and the odds of success, you’re in a better position to assess the risks you’re subjecting yourself and your business to. This is why professional gamblers are able to make a career out of their hobby, and it’s also why great leaders have strong track records when it comes to speculating and accumulating.
There’s no shortcut to having experience, and people are going to be watching for you to slip up because of your lack of it. Your best defense against this is knowledge. Keep a close eye on every reputable industry news outlet you can think of. Watch for trends. Find out what your competition is doing and see what lessons you can take from it. If a business in your sector fails, find out why they failed. If you’re lagging behind your biggest rival, find out what they do differently to you. Develop an interest in technology, too. Is there new software on the market that could make your processes more efficient? Do changes in technology trends change the way your customers want to interact with you? Become a student of the game, and make time for research.
Becoming a manager sometimes makes it easier for people to hide. They get a new office, set themselves up inside it, and keep the door closed. They become detached from their employees, and that breeds uncertainty and resentment. You’re much more likely to win the respect of your staff if you’re seen to ‘get your hands dirty.’ Whatever it is that you did that won you your new management position in the first place, keep doing it. If you’re great at sales, continue dealing with a few customers. Pitch in during busy times. Keep your office door open and ensure that you’re approachable. Work harder than everybody else in the room. The best way to lead is by example, and this is how to do it.
Look The Part
Rightly or wrongly, there’s a ‘leadership look’ that people expect from their managers. You may or may not work in an office environment where everyone’s expected to wear business dress, but if you do, sharpen your wardrobe up. Don’t come into the office looking anything less than immaculate. People are looking to you for an example of how to conduct themselves, so provide it. As a leader, you have a personal brand, and people will either buy into it or they won’t. It’s much easier for them to do so if you look and sound successful. Office dress codes affect people’s psychology more than you realize, so you need to get yours right.
You became a leader because you have a specific set of skills. The majority of those skills can probably be taught. That’s why, as a leader, you should work closely with your training department. Take a few sessions yourself, especially those related to best practice or your company’s values and ethos. People love working for companies that take an interest in their ongoing development. Nothing sends the message that you’re interested like the ‘big boss’ playing a hand in that development. The more people believe they can learn something from you by working for you, the longer they’re likely to remain loyal and stick around.
Young leaders don’t have it easy. They’re more likely to be challenged on decisions, and they don’t get the automatic respect that’s sometimes given to visibly more experienced leaders. Nothing worth having ever comes easily, though. So long as you have a clear vision and you both walk and talk the part, you’ll succeed.