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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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Kerim Hudson

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Last Updated on July 15, 2019

10 Signs of a Bad Boss and How to Deal with Them

10 Signs of a Bad Boss and How to Deal with Them

This is an article I didn’t want to write. Even if it appears that way on the surface, few things are black and white. Between the two colors is a world of gray. Notwithstanding the bosses who behave criminally, some of the people who carry the “bad boss” label have possibly been, or have the capacity to become, a “good boss.”

This is an article I didn’t want to write because I understand that depending on whom you ask, many of us could be labeled either a good or bad boss.

Perhaps another reason I didn’t want to write this article is because context matters. Context for the organization and context for the individual. What is happening in the organization? What is the culture? Is the “boss” in a position for which the individual is equipped to do the job? Is the person in a terrible place in life? The office culture, the relationship a team member has with a boss or board and the leader’s personal life can all influence how the person shows up and leads and how others perceive the individual.

But since I am writing this article, I will share a few signs that bosses are bad and in need of a timeout.

1. Bad Bosses Don’t Know and Haven’t Healed Their Inner Child

If you plan to lead people – well, if you plan to effectively lead yourself – you must get reacquainted with your inner child. Just because you are in young adulthood, middle age or the golden years doesn’t mean your inner child matches your chronological age. If you experienced trauma as a child, your inner child may be stuck at the point or age of that trauma. While you walk around in a woman’s size 10 shoe, your behavior may showcase an inner child who is much younger.

In a June 7, 2008, Psychology Today article, Stephen A. Diamond, Ph.D., observed,[1]

“The fact is that the majority of so-called adults are not truly adults at all. We all get older … But, psychologically speaking, this is not adulthood. True adulthood hinges on acknowledging, accepting, and taking responsibility for loving and parenting one’s own inner child. For most adults, this never happens. Instead, their inner child has been denied, neglected, disparaged, abandoned or rejected. We are told by society to ‘grow up,’ putting childish things aside. To become adults, we’ve been taught that our inner child—representing our child-like capacity for innocence, wonder, awe, joy, sensitivity and playfulness—must be stifled, quarantined or even killed. The inner child comprises and potentiates these positive qualities. But it also holds our accumulated childhood hurts, traumas, fears and angers.”

Sometimes the key that your inner child needs tending to is conflict with someone else’s inner child.

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Good bosses are aware of the ups and downs of their childhood, have worked or are working to heal their inner child and are aware of their triggers. Good managers use this awareness to manage themselves, and their interactions with others. Bad bosses are oblivious to how their inner child impacts not only their life but the lives of others.

2. Bad Bosses Are Unable to Accept Feedback

Bad bosses are not intentional about creating an environment where their peers and colleagues can share feedback about their leadership. They don’t solicit feedback. Given the power dynamic that managers, CEOs and others in leadership yield, they must go out of their way to solicit feedback, and they must do so repeatedly.

Before being completely honest, most team members will test the waters and share low-stakes information to get a sense for how their boss will respond. If the boss is angry or retaliatory, team members are less likely to risk being candid in the future.

So being unable to accept feedback takes on two forms: failing to proactively and repeatedly ask for feedback and reacting poorly when feedback is shared.

3. Bad Bosses Are Unwilling to Give Timely Feedback

The flip side of accepting feedback is giving feedback. Both require courage. It takes courage to open yourself up and accept feedback on ways that you need to grow. Similarly, it takes courage to share honest feedback about a team member’s or colleague’s performance or behavior.

Since not everyone is open to accepting feedback, whether they’re a manager or not, having an honest conversation about areas a team member or colleague has missed the mark, is not always easy. Still, good bosses will find a way to share feedback, and they’ll do so in a timely fashion.

Withholding feedback and sharing it months after a situation has unfolded or in a snowball fashion is unhelpful to the employees. One of the ways we grow as leaders is through feedback. When people have the courage to tell us the truth, that information allows us to progress.

4. Bad Bosses Are Unable to Acknowledge Their Mistakes

Owning their mistakes is like a disease to bad bosses; they do not want it. Instead of being risk averse, they are accountability averse. The problem is that they can only gloss over their weaknesses or failures for so long; the people around are able to see their flaws and weaknesses, and bad bosses pretending they don’t exist is not helpful. It is infuriating.

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However, bad bosses are masterful at reassigning blame. They are unable or unwilling to accept responsibility for mistakes — small or large. But career expert Amanda Augustine told CNBC “Make It” in May 2017, that “good managers also admit their mistakes.”[2] They don’t pass the blame or pretend they didn’t make a mistake. They own it.

5. Bad Bosses Are Unwilling or Incapable of Being Vulnerable

Vulnerability is an underrated leadership skill. But well-placed and well-thought out vulnerability enables employees to see their leaders’ humanity, and it creates a way for leaders to bond with their teams.

Bad bosses may talk about vulnerability, but they don’t practice it in their own lives, particularly in the workplace.

6. Privately, Bad Bosses Do Not Live Up to the Organization’s Stated Values

Bad bosses may publicly spout the values of the organization they work for, but privately they either don’t believe or don’t embody those values.

If they work for an environmental group, they may not practice sustainability in their private lives. Their words and actions are incongruent.

7. Bad Bosses Are Unable to Inspire Others

When bad bosses are unable or unwilling to take the time to inspire others, they lead through fear or command. Neither are helpful.

A culture dominated by fear will stifle creativity and risk taking that can lead to innovation. An autocratic management style will have a similar effect in that team, members will not feel they have the space to step outside of the box they have been placed in.

A good boss is someone who takes time to share the big picture and time to inspire their teams to want to be a part of it.

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8. Bad Bosses Are Disinterested in How Their Behavior Impacts Others

They are narcissistic and focused on self-preservation. In “19 Traits of a Bad Boss,” Kevin Sheridan said,[3]

“Terrible bosses are endlessly self-centered. Everything is about them and not the people they manage or what is going on in their employees’ personal lives. It is never about the team, but rather all about how good they look. Conversely, great bosses lead with integrity, honesty, care, and authenticity.”

Rather than seeing their team’s talents and seeing people’s full humanity, bad bosses believe their team exists to serve them. Families, personal life and priorities be damned. Bona fide bad bosses believe that their comfort should be prioritized over their team’s needs and desires.

9. Bad Bosses Have Likely Received Negative Feedback

Bad bosses have likely been told that they are poor supervisors. They have likely been told time and time again that their behavior is harmful to the people around them.

Perhaps they do not know how to change or are unwilling to change. But bad bosses certainly have received clues, insights and direct feedback that their management style and behavior are harmful to others.

Even when someone hasn’t explicitly said, “Your behavior is harmful to me and others,” the absence of feedback indicates a problem. It can mean that the leader’s team doesn’t feel safe enough to share feedback, that people do not believe the leader will act on what is shared, or that people have determine the best strategy is to avoid the boss as much as possible.

10. Bad Bosses Are Perfectionists

Bad bosses are driven by an internal urge to be perfect. Perfectionists don’t just want to be perfect; they want everyone around them to be perfect as well. This is a standard that neither they nor their team can live up to.

Since perfection is illusive, they spend their time chasing their shadow and being frustrated that they cannot catch it. They are unable to enjoy the journey and often block others from doing so as well. They let “perfect” be the enemy of “good.” Rather than embracing a growth mindset that desires to learn and improved, they are compulsive and toxic.

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If you are like me and you see yourself in parts of this list, do not despair. A bad boss can change. The key is seeking honest feedback and being willing to work through that feedback and your triggers with a therapist or coach.

The Bottom Line

Regardless of your age and the mistakes you have made, you can change and become a healthier leader whom others respect and appreciate.

Conversely, if you are employed by a bad boss, do everything in your power to take care of yourself. Understand that your boss’s behavior, even if directed at you, is not about you. Your boss’s reactions, if and when you make a mistake, is a reflection on that individual, not you.

To survive the work environment, think about the lesson you are meant to learn. You can do this with a trusted therapist or capable coach. However, if you deem the work environment to be toxic and harmful to your health, seek employment elsewhere.

In the end, this is an article I did not want to write, but I’m happy I did.

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Featured photo credit: Amy Hirschi via unsplash.com

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