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