For those of us who start our career ambitiously seeking a leadership position, we can get easily frustrated with a lack of progress. And, if you’re at the bottom of the totem pole, your opportunities to stand out and lead are far and few between.
While your road to executive leadership might be years in the future, you’re still able to lead today and refine those skills on a smaller scale.
I have six keys to becoming a great leader in your 20s that will prepare you for the executive suite down the road.
Tip One: Be Comfortable with Yourself
First and foremost — be comfortable with who you are. If you aren’t, you will be consumed with comparison and other people’s judgments.
Warren Buffet says, “You will continue to suffer if you have an emotional reaction to everything that is said to you. True power is sitting back and observing things with logic… If words control you that means every else can control you.”
And, many young professionals make their worth and value contingent on what others say about them. What others judge about you is your truth. As we get old, we start to not really care what people think.
Learn this lesson early. Be comfortable with yourself and own your true power.
Leaders face adversity every day, and it’s just a matter of “when” not “if”. Your ability to stay grounded and confident will make you a true leader worth following.
Tip Two: Prove Professionalism and Trust
Trust is one of the most important elements in team dynamics. And, if you’re looking to lead a team, you need to create a trusting relationship with your team.
Trust is built over a long period of time through small acts — showing up on time to a meeting, delivering a project on time, etc. As you start performing small acts of trust, the impact begins to ripple into your team’s work.
You will start seeing more creative and vulnerable work from your team. Those innovations in creativity will create a snowball that rolls into other parts of your work. One thing leads to another, and eventually, your team becomes a tight-knit group that we all aspire to be a part of.
Focus on being trustworthy first and your team will mimic.
Tip Three: Work on Your Strengths
We’re taught to focus on our weaknesses a lot when we’re younger. The thought being, “If you’re not good at something, you should be better at it so you don’t get left behind.”
However, our weaknesses are often tasks we don’t like working on anyway. So, when you improve your weaknesses, you’re improving on things you don’t like doing.
Instead, focus on building your strengths.
If you don’t know what strengths you have, you can ask friends and colleagues. They’ll often articulate your strengths in a succinct way.
Or, if you’re more interpersonal, you can take several strengths finding tests like CliftonStrengths which outlines your primary strengths and gives you recommendations on how to better maximize them.
Tip Four: Be a Teacher and a Student
We all hate a “Know It All” — especially when they don’t know anything.
When we’re young, we have the tendency to act like we know more than we do. “Fake it ’til you make it.” And, while that advice is great in a lot of instances, it’s not a well-respected trait for top leaders.
Great leaders like Nelson Mandela would strategically focus on learning first, then teaching. For Mandela, he would be the last to speak in his meetings. He felt that he should know all the facts before making a final decision — and his team respected him for it.
The lesson here? Don’t teach if you don’t know. Be open with your team and create a culture of continual learning for yourself and your team.
Tip Five: Start Somewhere
We see these big names as we scroll through LinkedIn, and it may be daunting to think that we’d never reach that level.
The key to being a leader at a young age? Be disciplined and start with small acts.
When we start out, we don’t have the momentum of someone like Tony Robbins. But, we have just as much power to act. Our steps may be small, but after years of investing will yield the return that you’re craving.
All great leaders started at level one. Now, you can take the first step and start with low expectations.
Once you get moving, the opportunities will find you.
Tip Six: Learn How to Manage
Lastly, invest some time in learning how to manage.
How do you delegate? What’s your process for managing workflow? How do you manage up in a matrixed organization?
When you’re looking to lead, you can’t do so without first knowing how to manage. Do your research and take advantage of your company’s management training.
After you have some experience managing, you’ll have the skills to move entire teams and organizations.
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