27 September 2023

Seven tips for effective young leaders

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Beth Braccio Hering* says practically all new leaders get challenged, she shares some tips to help first-time managers set the tone.

Congratulations! You’ve landed your first leadership position.

That’s an exciting career milestone and, undoubtedly, the result of diligence and hard work.

By now, you might be discovering that your promotion comes with some challenges that more senior members of the leadership team aren’t facing.

At times, do you feel like you’re not taken seriously?

Perhaps the team is constantly testing you, and your every move is scrutinized.

Realistically, you’re probably correct.

Practically all new leaders get challenged, especially those who appear to have less experience than other team members.

But with a few simple tips, you can set the tone to lead a successful team, even when you’re just starting.

Becoming an effective leader when you lack experience

Whether you’re a young professional fresh in your career or have recently changed careers and are looking for your first opportunity to shine, you may feel like you’re starting at a disadvantage.

However, the fact is that anyone has the potential to become an effective leader, regardless of their age or level of experience.

Consider some of the following tips to build a foundation for your career in leadership.

  1. Be constantly learning

In researching the book Millennials Who Manage: How to Overcome Workplace Perceptions and Become a Great Leader, coauthor Chip Espinoza surveyed employees over the age of 35 about the advice they would give to a manager under age 35.

Their answers form a foundation for how millennial managers can get off to a good start:

  • Listen
  • Be respectful
  • Be patient
  • Be a learner
  • Treat employees as equals
  • Lead by example
  • Don’t take on too much
  • Be confident

Consider creating a written vision of what you want your leadership style to be, using that list as a starting point.

Actively and regularly check in to ensure that you’re staying on track and not letting day-to-day work tasks change your approach.

If there’s an area that you’re struggling with, find professional development opportunities to hone that skill.

  1. Be willing to take less credit

Especially when you’re new to a team, you might see things with a different set of eyes and be eager to shake things up.

You may get a lot of pushback from the team, as they might feel that you’re suggesting that they’re ineffective in their roles.

Instead, take a little time initially to seek feedback from the group.

Ask what they think the team does well and what could be improved.

Often, they’ll see some of the same issues that you do.

However, you’ll meet tremendous success by having valued their input.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter whose idea they think it is.

  1. Always be consistent

Managers frequently deal with team members of various ages.

Suddenly being in charge of same-age peers may feel awkward.

While most new managers know that giving friends special treatment is unacceptable, watch that you don’t go to the other extreme and become tougher on them to “prove” your fairness.

Similarly, resist the temptation to take up the slack for older employees simply because holding them accountable feels uncomfortable.

  1. Focus on your current team

No one wants to feel like they’re simply a rung on the ladder you’re climbing.

If you want a team to follow your leadership, you have to display investment in them and the goals they’re working toward.

A desire to move further up the leadership ladder is admirable, but it shouldn’t be your primary concern at the moment.

Focus on two critical factors to success now and later: results and integrity.

“At the end of the day, leaders are leaders for one main reason—they get results,” says Career and Business Coach Dave Weir, CEO of Leadership Optimized.

“To even be considered for (further) leadership, you must have a demonstrated track record of consistently achieving results.”

You can’t get that on your own, so ensure that you’re focusing on the here and now with your current team, rather than dreaming of your next title.

  1. Find leadership mentors

Whether through reading books or through personal relationships, rarely have any great leaders been successful without seeking advice from others who led before them.

Recognize that being a new manager can be challenging at times.

Surround yourself with people who can offer advice and encouragement.

A mentor can be a confidant in your corner who has “been there, done that” and points out things you’re not experienced enough to see.

On the other end of the spectrum, joining a young professionals’ group will provide camaraderie and input from other emerging leaders who will likely confront the same growing pains as you.

And remember that solidifying relationships while in your first managerial role provides an excellent foundation for networking into your second!

  1. Become a team member first

Recognize the nuances between leading and directing.

Rather than wasting time attempting to persuade your team, demonstrate it to them.

Leaders are typically out in front setting the pace, while directors are frequently in the back telling people where to go.

New leaders discover that actions rather than words win over their most vocal naysayers.

Showing them instead of trying to convince them is a lot more effective.

For example, if you want your team to manage their working hours better, set an excellent example by prioritizing arriving on time and managing your break times effectively.

Do you need them to embrace projects more enthusiastically? Make sure you’re invested in the tasks first.

It will be harder for them to object if you represent the objective, demonstrating that the new standard is attainable.

  1. Assume positive intent

When you’re new to a team, you’re only seeing pieces of someone’s full story.

Rather than automatically assuming you understand why they’re underperforming, take some time to consider other possibilities.

Could they have been trained insufficiently, or perhaps their previous leader had different expectations? Is it possible that they have a personal crisis that makes it hard to focus?

When you take the time and care to understand why your team is making the choices they’re making, you can adjust your approach for tremendous success.

Above all, have faith in yourself

You will get tested throughout your leadership career, especially in your first role.

If you’re younger than some of your peers or team members, you might have to work even harder to earn their trust.

But at the heart of leadership lies confidence and self-assurance—two qualities that you can develop with practice and hard work.

Whether you start by taking on small challenges to boost your confidence or dive right in and take charge in challenging situations, others will respect you more when they see that you’re a consistent leader with determination and focus.

*Beth Braccio Hering has been a freelance writer for 20 years. In addition to extensive contributions to various Encyclopaedia Britannica products, her work has been published by outlets such as CareerBuilder, Johnson & Johnson’s BabyCenter, Walt Disney Internet Group, and Chicken Soup for the Soul.

This article first appeared at flexjobs.com.

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