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How Becoming A Successful Young Leader At Work Is Not As Hard As You Think

How Becoming A Successful Young Leader At Work Is Not As Hard As You Think

Young leaders often consider their age to be a setback; however, there are some ways in which it is possible to maintain great working relationships with your colleagues while catapulting into success. Following these key ideas will mold you into a greater leader, one who is able to keep both yourself and your team happy.

1. Be prepared.

The first impression you make will be a lasting one. Whichever sector or department you work in, people will talk. This is precisely why you need to be clear with the impact and direction you intend to move in. This is especially true as a young leader, as people may not take you as seriously.

Understanding who plays what role within the company, and how they like to work also helps prevent causing initial friction, and can develop an understanding of company culture. Also, understand what the company expects from you so that you are clear as to what you need to achieve within yourself.

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2. Be a chameleon, not a peacock.

Everyone has met a peacock: a manager (not a leader) set in their ways, unwilling to adapt who flashes their feathers in everyone’s face. Every company has their own culture, and it is important to adapt to the company culture in order to understand how it works, and to determine your suitability. The majority of the workforce may have been working in their style for a long time, and so absorbing and comprehending the current culture is key to understanding how to progress, especially as a young leader.

3. Communication is key.

This means listening is more important than talking. Maintain a strong physical and social presence with your team, as they’ll feel more managed than led if you do not actively spend time with them. This could be by making sure your desk is with them, or just dropping by every now and again to track their progress, but make sure you are consistent. Also, make sure that you are always available to offer your team help. You are their go-to within the company, and if you want your team to deliver, you need to deliver to them as well.

4. Actively seek out opportunity.

This could be for yourself or members of your team, but is vital in being able to progress and develop. You may develop a style you feel would be more successful, be it using a different software package, or someone in a new role. The majority of your team are looking to develop, and as a leader, you should constantly be scouting for talent, and assessing their strengths and weaknesses. In doing this, they will trust and respect you more, irrespective of your age.

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5. Avoid negativity.

Positive reinforcement always works. It may take a little longer, but in the long run it will work out better for you and the team. Your team’s self-efficacy will grow, as will their trust in you. Being a young leader can give off a naive vibe, but you can tailor this to your advantage by forcing your team to actively search for solutions, rather than handing it to them on a plate. Negativity breeds loathing, and members of your team will be quicker to unite against you than to unite with you.

6. Don’t cap progress.

Within your team, there will be some who flourish within their role and aim to achieve more. It is important that, as a young leader, you allow them to progress. You may reach a point where there is nothing more that you can give them, that you may even consider offloading some of your own work to them, giving them an insight into your role and you more time to develop other members of the team. A great leader will have a self-maintaining team. Do not let your own fear of job security prevent you developing your team.

7. Pursue self-actualization.

This is more of a selfish point, but is essential. Let’s not beat around the bush—you want to progress and develop as much as your team does. Make sure your own goals are clear, both personal and professionally, and set yourself targets. Always learn and apply new techniques of leadership in order to see what works for you. The old saying “Knowledge is Power” always resonates truth (if you need a place to start, check out these 15 Best Leadership Books Every Young Leader Needs To Read).

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8. Establish rules, and follow them through.

Spending the majority of your waking hours with your team, you may begin to see them as friends more than colleagues which can cause problems. It is essential you establish some form of boundaries with regard to your professional relationships, as well as what you expect from your team, whether it be office courtesy, productivity, or out-of-office conduct. A leader who has a clear directive as to what they expect and what they wish for their team to achieve is much easier to follow—and to respect—than someone who is unsure as to what they intend to do. Be clear, concise, and informative.

9. Be a fair young leader.

Now you have established your boundaries, it is time to put them into play. However, make sure that you are consistent and fair to the whole team, and that you do not cause an imbalance within the team. The easiest way to do this is to be firm and direct with every member of the team, though as you develop and gain confidence, you will be able to be more creative and personalize your management style; you can see some different leadership styles here (5 Leadership Styles that Help You Build a High Performance Team).

10. Mix business with pleasure.

There’s nothing wrong with grabbing a drink with your team outside of work, and it gives you a great opportunity to get to know them on a deeper level. Just make sure you maintain an element of distance; otherwise, it can be very difficult when having to make tough decisions, especially when you’re younger than a lot of the team. Being a young leader, it might even be assumed that you may still be a recovering alcoholic (A.K.A. a graduate). Now go grab that drink, and get to know your team!

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Featured photo credit: Al Stephenson, Wikimedia via upload.wikimedia.org

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Last Updated on March 29, 2021

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

The Dream Type Of Manager

My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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“Okay…”

That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

The Bully

My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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The Invisible Boss

This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

The Micro Manager

The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

The Over Promoted Boss

The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

The Credit Stealer

The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

1. Keep evidence

Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

2. Hold regular meetings

Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

Good luck!

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