The best way to become a more successful young leader is to disregard it as your goal and focus on your learning journey.
That includes a combination of your everyday experience at work, with experiences of your own making. I started my career as an intern in Colgate-Palmolive and was eventually promoted to a position as an internet marketing specialist with a team that consisted of seven others. One of the most valuable skills I have learned throughout my career is that if you want to be a young leader, you need to be both focused and curious. Learning is also important, and the ability to teach is simply a must.
For those who are eager to learn more about leadership or who would like to become more successful leaders, these are my top 15 tips. They come from experience, from my reading, and from attending dozens of master classes over the years.
To become a successful leader, you must:
- Face challenges. A great leader is a brave yet prudent. You should be ready to face challenges and answer for the consequences of your decisions.
- Be honest. Inform your coworkers of both good and bad news, and how the company is going to react. You are responsible for establishing a calm environment among your coworkers, so they are sure they are unlikely to be hit with unpleasant surprises.
- Win trust. Your team will become engaged and loyal if they feel they are surrounded by people they can trust. The first and most important aspect of building trust is to get involved in coworkers or employees’ everyday work problems. Pay close attention to those who are behind everyone else, and devote some time to explaining their task to them. The second step is to get to know their lives outside the office. But, don’t overdo it—no one likes intrusive bosses.
- Keep calm. Professionals never show their emotions. You have to stay focused, and if you feel overwhelmed, it is better to take a walk or even stay and work from home. Your colleagues, partners, and even your managers make mistakes; nevertheless you can never allow yourself to correct them in anger. Instead, calmly explain the situation and what you expect them to do in the future.
- Pursue your passions. Although it is a bit clichéd, it is true that you will never become a leader if you are heading in the wrong direction in your career. Being young allows us to try and understand what is interesting yet beneficial for us. Use your time well.
- Listen and observe. If you are determined to become a leader, you will have to be the best at listening and observing. People express themselves with their manners, words, and body language every day. You can tell a lot about a person if you observe them. See what they are passionate about, what makes them excited, which tasks make them gloomy, and which seem to make them happy.
- Set an example. Be the kind of leader you would follow yourself. You may not know every task 100 percent, but it is essential to understand how to solve or better improve each situation. If you were promoted to become a manager of a marketing department, you have to know specifics of the work and each employee. It is you who must take responsibility for each task, and not your coworkers. Your main aim as a leader is to set an example; so for instance, if you want them to be at work on time, you should be punctual yourself.
- Stay organized. Your desk should be clean and your orders should be easy to understand. You should know the plan for each day and every week.
- Be fair. Although it is an obvious statement, many leaders and managers tend to pick their favorites. Even if you are close friends with someone on your team, it doesn’t give you the right to be totally permissive to them while throwing most of the work to others.
- Earn respect. Earning respect is easy—all you have to do is conduct yourself in an ethical way and model what you expect from the others on your team. Show them you know where you are going, and that you are not only telling your team what to do, but also marching in step.
- Stay curious. “Millions saw the apple fall, but only Newton asked why.” Curiosity is one of the main traits of a good leader. Stay passionate, curious, and committed to learning something new.
- Be sympathetic. Although you have to be tough, you should also understand that we are all human beings, and sometimes it won’t hurt you to cut some slack to those that are going through a rough time, such as a painful break-up or loss of a relative.
- Remember that you are young. You have some time to build a wonderful career, and remember to have fun and enjoy the moment you are living in. While it is important to be focused on your career, your private life shouldn’t suffer.
- Don’t put labels on people. If you want to be an effective leader, you will have to lose the practice of assigning labels to others and especially to yourself. This includes the label of being a leader. Who knows when your role may be revoked, especially if you work for someone else, or become drunk on the power of leadership. Your title is not your identity. Be confident, but don’t be confident because of your label.
- Understand yourself. Try to do everything to notice the impact you have on others. If you reach the point when self-awareness is your strength, it means you are ready to go on a long-term leadership journey.
At the end of the day, remember that you are young, with a lot of time ahead. Work hard, stay curious, and remember that great leaders don’t tell you what to do—they show you how it’s done.
What do you think it takes to be a good leader? Which quality do you find most important? Share with us in the comments below.